What’s the problem? (Part 1: It starts with access)

Access to high speed internet/broadband is a challenge in many parts of upstate New York. The state sees a wide range of internet speed and access with some communities benefiting from high speed internet access and others struggling with slow or unreliable internet service. This blog post written by Jeannie Choi (journalist and CUNY graduate student and Sophia Rosenbaum) from last year, offers more information on the digital divide in upstate New York.

The map (right) created by the New York State Broadband Office clearly shows just how much of New York state is in the dark when it comes to high-speed internet access (with most of the North Country Region being left behind at this point). The NYS Broadband Office estimates that about 1.1 million New Yorkers currently have no access to high-speed broadband.

So what does this mean for the state of New York and its citizens? The NYS Broadband Program Office articulates the problem this way:

Better broadband means greater opportunities for New Yorkers. By leveraging today’s Internet, citizens have greater opportunities to connect to educational and workforce development training resources; communities can foster more economic development; businesses can access new markets and create more jobs, and our schools, colleges and universities can conduct high-tech research and development and build an innovative and talented high-tech workforce. But, residents cannot fully participate in the digital economy without access to affordable broadband and the ability to use it. (Retrieved July 10, 2014, from: http://www.nysbroadband.ny.gov/):

As this article from the January 29, 2014 Troy Record shows, progress is being made in terms of outfitting rural parts of the state with access to high speed internet thanks to a combination of government and corporate projects. But access isn’t the whole solution. As the statement above indicates, New Yorkers need broadband access but they also need “the ability to use it”. Government programs and corporate initiatives tend to focus on framing the digital divide in terms of the “haves and the have nots”; but addressing the need for access to the internet and the hardware and software to use the internet is only part one of the solution. There also needs to be a way to provide training on how to use these tools.


Broadband Availability in New York State.  New York State Broadband Program Office. Retrieved July 10, 2014 from: http://www.nysbroadband.ny.gov/broadband-availability

Choi, J. and Rosenbaum, S. (2013). “Data Visualization: Breaking Down the Digital Divide in New York State”. Jeannie Choi Blog. Retrieved July 10, 2014 from: http://jeanniechoi.journalism.cuny.edu/data-visualization-breaking-down-the-digital-divide-in-new-york-state/

Halligan, L. (2014). “Rural Areas in Upstate New York Receive Broadband Access”. Troy Recorder. Retrieved July 10, 2014 from: http://www.troyrecord.com/technology/20140130/rural-areas-in-upstate-new-york-receive-broadband-access