New York releases first annual broadband report

New York’s Council for Universal Broadband released its first Annual Report (.pdf) this week, highlighting the Council’s efforts to ensure every New Yorker has access to affordable, high-speed broadband. As Chair of the Council and New York State Chief Information Officer, Dr. Melodie Mayberry-Stewart stressed the importance of broadband telecommunications to rural and urban communities.

New York State is slightly ahead of the United States’ average in terms of broadband speeds, but remains lower than many other nations, the report found. “If we look at our median broadband speed in the U.S., we continue to lag behind the rest of the globe. In 2008, we dropped from number four to number six. And in 2007, 48% of the households in New York State did not have what we consider to be high-speed broadband services, which is approximately 3.7 million households,” Dr. Mayberry-Stewart said.

The Council was formed in 2008 and has just completed its first year of work, culminating in the Annual Review. Among some of the Council’s accomplishments in 2008, was the awarding of $5 million in grants for broadband adoption, a completed economic development survey, launching a braodband mapping initiative as well as adopting digital literacy standards.

In March, Governor David Patterson awarded ten groups in ten New York counties and cities upwards of $5 million in universal broadband grants. The projects receiving grant money ranged from “broadband over power line” solutions to expanding existing network infrastructure to subsidizing low income households to deliver affordable broadband service. Dr. Donald Jacobs, the co-chair of the Technology Policy and Practices Council at NYSU said, “Bringing broadband network access to all corners of New York State, particularly to urban and rural communities that are underserved by robust telecommunications, will go a long way to closing the digital divide and will enhance digital literacy that is essential to the state’s economic growth.”

The Economic Development and IT Workforce Development Action Team worked with communities around the state to develop and implement a statewide survey to assess the perceived impact on economic development opportunities. The Team aims to develop a blueprint for how broadband deployment can benefit economic development in targeted areas such as manufacturing, home-based business, downtown revitalization and retention of young professionals. “Nations, states and communities are rapidly coming to the understanding that broadband deployment is critical for their success in the new economy,” said Robert McNary, Regional Director for Finger Lakes Office of Empire State Development.

As part of developing important measurements and metrics, the state of New York undertook the beginning of a broadband mapping initiative. The mapping initiative will help officials identify gaps in broadband coverage as well as develop strategies to incorage the privider community to invest and accelerate braodband infrastructure build out. By 2010 the state hopes to have an average coverage rate of 80% and by 2015 the state hopes to achieve an average coverage rate of 90% in populated areas.  New York stands to win a large chunk of the $7.2 billion in stimulus money for broadband, and making sure the state is properly mapped can help officials pinpoint reasons to justify grant mony.

In 2008, New York ranked 35th in community Inter use. By defining statewide digital literacy proficiency standards for state adoption by schools and other digital literacy entities, the Council for Universal Broadband hopes to be ranked in the top 25 by 2010, and top 20 by 2012.

Among 2009’s priorities, is the completion of the statewide mapping initiative, publishing an updated NYS Broadband Strategy to account for federal stimulus opportunities, adopting digital literacy standards by the Board of Regents and align state and federal policies to meet broadband strategic goals.

“Broadband telecommunications is critical to urban and rural communities to improve the economic competitiveness of New York State. Our accomplishments reflect the important work put forth by our public and private partners to advance Governor David A. Paterson’s vision of affordable broadband access for all New Yorkers,” Dr. Mayberry-Stewart said.

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