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Bill requiring state to review broadband access passes Legislature

Outgoing state Assemblyman and state senator-elect Dan Stec speaks about road salt legislation signed by the governor in December 2020. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

Legislation requiring the state agency that regulates utilities to review high-speed broadband access has been included as part of state budget negotiations, according to state Sen. Dan Stec.

The Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act would require the state Public Service Commission to post a detailed access map on its website, showing internet service by location, and hold four public hearings between the public and internet service providers to address gaps in service. The bill has been included in both the Senate and Assembly’s one-house budget proposals.

Stec, R-Queensbury, was a cosponsor of a bill the Legislature approved last year to require a detailed broadband analysis. Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed the legislation in January, however, on the grounds that the $3 million cost was not included in the budget.

“The veto was a disappointment, especially after we waited so many months for the executive to take action,” Stec said in a news release. “The governor’s office had promised they would do something in the budget but that didn’t happen. So, lawmakers are now taking action by proposing to include the legislation in the new state budget, which is due April 1.”

“The governor’s promise of high-speed internet for all hasn’t been fulfilled,” Stec said. “The COVID crisis made it glaringly obvious how great a disadvantage not having broadband is, and fixing this problem should be a priority for our state.”

Stec has spoken with Sen. Kevin Parker, D-Brooklyn, chairman of the Senate’s Energy and Telecommunications Committee, about eliminating a fee on fiber optic line installers who build lines in state-controlled highway right-of-ways.

Expanding broadband has been a top priority for local officials and entities, including EDC Warren County, which is conducting a survey to gauge access to high-speed internet.

Jim Siplon, president of the organization, reported at the organization’s monthly meeting on Tuesday that participation in the survey has fallen off. He would like to receive more responses, particularly from the city of Glens Falls.

Siplon said the EDC is working with the Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board to solicit proposals from consultants to compile information about broadband access over a multi-county region.

Availability of high-speed internet was cited by 47% of people in a survey conducted by Camoin Associates as one of the most important factors in deciding where to live. Quality and affordability of housing was cited by 64% of respondents, followed by health care services at 54%.

EDC Warren County is trying to attract people to relocate to the area.

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