There’s a difference between what broadband internet services federal and state officials say Yates County residents have access to, and what residents actually have experienced. When it comes to attracting more providers, or encouraging the existing providers to expand services, local officials will have to work to convince state and federal agencies to pitch in.
Yates County Legislators heard a report July 9 about Yates County internet service based on a survey and in-depth analysis of services and residents’ experiences. The bottom line is that although the Federal Communications Commission says there are nine Internet Service Providers serving customers in Yates County, the reality is that a majority of the ISPs only serve a handful of residents. When it comes to funding projects to expand services, federal officials will point to the nine providers they say are providing service here, and state officials are likely to say a satellite service can provide connectivity to those rural customers where broadband, DSL, or cable service does not exist. That way, federal and state officials can say there is connectivity in the area, despite the reality in most rural homes, where some struggle to keep pace with the connected world.
“The FCC’s reported coverage versus the (survey) respondent data indicate the service territories are inaccurate and need an update,” said ECC Technologies marketing executive Meridith Carroll.
Furthermore, according to the speed tests that internet customers in Yates County submitted for the survey, half of the 743 Yates County customers who replied are experiencing download speeds of 0-4 megabits per second, far below the advertised speeds for “high-speed” internet.
Yates County received state grants to support the construction of an open dark fiber network system that now connects similar networks to the north (Ontario County) and to the south (Schuyler and Steuben Counties). The intention of the network is to attract ISPs who will provide faster service to more customers.
“It really is a huge problem for rural homes,” said Carroll. She said 86 percent of the people who responded to the survey believe having a choice in service providers is important; 44 percent have children who have experienced difficulty completing homework because of no or inconsistent service.
Customers say the top uses for internet service is ordering products, streaming entertainment, taking online classes, homework, conducting a home-based business, and telecommuting.
The industry representatives recommend that Yates County officials continue to encourage existing providers like Frontier, Spectrum, Verizon, and Empire to expand their service area, and continue to pursue funding opportunities for further construction.
Following the detailed presentation, the legislators met with the representatives of ECC Technology representatives and the Southern Tier Network in executive session to hear the quarterly report on the open network.
The lengthy presentation took place at the end of the legislature’s monthly meeting, which included a light agenda, but was punctuated by a last-minute resolution offered by District I Legislator Elden Morrison. His resolution, which was referred to the Finance Committee for discussion, was to request that Yates County Chamber of Commerce provide data on the use of tourism promotion funding for 2017 and 2018. Morrison said he wants to see the data before the county appoints the Tourism Promotion Agency for 2019. The Chamber of Commerce has historically been appointed TPA to administer tourism promotions funding.
Since the county adopted the occupancy tax, which generates funds that are allocated to the TPA, a Tourism Advisory Council considers requests from area organizations who use funding to support events, activities, and promotions aimed at drawing more overnight visitors to the area.
Other business at the July 9 meeting included:
• County Administrator: Legislators unanimously adopted a local law establishing the office of County Administrator, which was recently vacated with Robert Lawton resigned to take a city manager position in California. The Yates County position is being advertised and the deadline to apply is Aug. 3.
• Watershed Plan: Legislators unanimously agreed to provide financial support of $5,000 over a three year period for the creation of a Nine-Element Watershed Plan for Keuka and Seneca Lakes. The $5,000 is the local match required if a state grant to cover the cost of the plan is awarded.
• Stream Sampling: Legislators also agreed to contribute $2,600 toward stream sampling of Keuka Lake tributaries, a project expected to cost $5,200. The other $2,600 will come from other municipalities.