Mohawk Valley agencies plan to address internet access, digital equity
State and regional organizations recently met at Mohawk Valley Community College’s Utica campus to discuss challenges and opportunities related to internet access and digital equity in the Mohawk Valley.
This was one of the more recent steps as the region looks to address internet access issues.
MVCC, New York State ConnectALL, and the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development (MVEDD) Council partnered to host an Internet and Digital Equity Listening Session on Wednesday, March 15.
The event brought together stakeholders from across the Mohawk Valley to share input to inform ConnectALL’s development of New York's broadband deployment and digital equity plan.
“The Mohawk Valley listening session was the first in a series being hosted by NY State's ConnectALL office to uncover and understand the challenges community members face with access to internet,” said Lauren Mattia, community development specialist at MVEDD in a statement.
“Whether it’s physical connectivity, affordability, or the knowledge needed to use the internet for tasks that used to be done in person, it's the gap NY State wants to fill.”
We've got an internet problem
Internet connectivity has long been an issue in the Mohawk Valley, with Oneida and Herkimer Counties working together to address the issue. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. also has noted the importance of tackling the problem during several past county addresses.
Oneida County has made some great strides in this area.
In February, Oneida County announced it is seeking proposals from internet providers to better expand its broadband service into underserved areas, all part of a $2 million project.
The project money comes from the capital plan passed with Oneida County’s 2023 budget. The broadband project was originally proposed for $5 million, but ultimately was reduced.
In 2018, the county finalized an Inventory of Broadband Assets which contained information regarding vertical assets, public and emergency facilities, commercial and industrial growth areas, downtown districts and other vital data to be utilized in developing a feasibility study for an expanded broadband internet network.
The county partnered with the MVEDD to conduct a survey in the summer of 2021 to test internet speeds and assess the broadband needs of residents and businesses.
The survey was used to develop a map of 52 underserved areas of the county, each containing 25 or more homes that are without broadband internet, and determined the more rural parts of Oneida County have the most issues with broadband access.
As the lead organizer, MVCC brought together regional economic development partners to ensure that the event was inclusive and representative of the diverse communities in the Mohawk Valley.
The session was attended by college representatives, local businesses, non-profits, community leaders and elected officials who shared their experiences and ideas on how to improve internet access and digital equity in the region, organizers said.
The impact of the broadband expansion on the Mohawk Valley region, how to significantly improve internet access in rural areas, help bridge the digital divide, and create new economic opportunities for the community was discussed during the session.
"Many of our constituents that should have had access to the internet for school, telehealth, and work suffer from inadequate internet access," said Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-New Hartford, in a statement. "I commend Mohawk Valley Community College and the Mohawk Regional Economic Development Council for hosting this listening session. The ConnectALL initiative is a vital infrastructure investment to our region, and I am hopeful that this will help to bridge the digital divide, as we now know broadband access and affordability is essential."
This article originally appeared on Observer-Dispatch: Mohawk Valley agencies plan to address internet access, digital equity