Broadband issues continue for students in rural communities

Schenectady County

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Now more than ever, we are forced to rely on technology— whether it be for telemedicine, or even learning or working remotely. The pandemic has further highlighted the importance of broadband.

“It should be a basic utility, and right now it’s not even really about something you can afford, it’s something that’s even an option,” said Tom Ciaccio, Fonda-Fultonville’s Superintendent.

For some rural communities in Upstate NY, they don’t have a choice in the matter. Roughly 15-18% of families in the Fonda-Fultonville School District alone, do not have access to high speed broadband.

Lisa Lee said not having broadband makes doing homework challenging for her daughter who is a sophomore in the school district.

“It is very difficult because everything is computer-based,” explained Lee. “And especially with her being at home the majority of the time, we don’t have unlimited bandwidth through our internet service. So having to watch videos, there’s a lot of stopping and starting. Doing class assignments may take longer if the internet goes down which it does often. And sometimes we don’t have very good cell service either and that will affect the internet.”

Lee said her family uses a home base which provides phone and internet in one device, but isn’t always reliable.

To help other families who lack broadband access, the school district purchased and distributed hotspots to the students who didn’t have them. This helped to lessen some of the problems, but the superintendent said it did not eliminate them.

“What happens is many students, they will be on a live meet for nine periods a day, and that’s an awful lot of internet activity. If you don’t have high-speed broadband, you get kicked off of these classes and by the time they get back on, they miss key parts of the lesson,” explained Ciaccio.

For those who rely on cell service, it can be capped, and can be costly.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said while Governor Cuomo claims that New York State has 98% broadband coverage, that just isn’t the case. That’s why he introduced a bill that he says would allow a more accurate study to be conducted into how many people actually have broadband access. However, the governor just recently vetoed the bill.

“Now that he’s killed the bill, I am hopeful That he will listen to reason and put it in the budget,” stated Santabarbara.

Until this problem is resolved, Santabarbara said he will keep fighting for broadband for his constituents, like Lisa Lee and her family.

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