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CANANDAIGUA — Ontario County officials are encouraging residents to complete a survey they hope ultimately helps fill in gaps of broadband internet service.
In an effort to boost high-speed internet throughout the state, New Yorkers are being asked to fill out survey to find out where it’s most needed so that state and federal funding can be routed to the right places.
And Ontario County officials want to ensure this region is well-represented by urging residents to complete the survey and internet speed test at www.empirestatebroadband.com. The deadline, which has been extended, is now Dec. 31.
While all residents and businesses are urged to participate, Ontario County Director of Planning Tom Harvey said it is especially important for those who don’t have broadband access at home or a business — or if what you have does not meet your needs — to complete the survey.
To date, only 156 survey responses have been received from Ontario County, Harvey said.
Here’s why it’s important
The state and federal governments’ approach to mapping broadband availability for years has been to assume that an entire census block is served if just one resident reports having broadband service, Harvey said.
That methodology works well in urban and highly developed areas, but not well in rural areas where census tracts tend to be larger, Harvey said, using the following as an example.
Say an internet service provider runs fiber-optic cable from the City of Canandaigua to the Village of Bloomfield in order to provide broadband internet service in the village. If the cable ran down state Routes 5 and 20, a resident or business located on Route 5 and 20 would have service, but residents in the same census block — say on Grimble Road, just off the busy state route — very well may not have service because the cable does not run down their road and is over a mile away. Yet, Harvey said, the state and federal government shows the entire area as being served by broadband.
County officials say that much greater areas of Ontario County do not have broadband available to them than what is shown on the federal inventory maps.
“We certainly heard that is an issue for many rural businesses and residents during the stakeholder and public comment portions of the update of the county’s agricultural enhancement plan two years ago,” Harvey said. “Why this is important is that much of the grant funding available to extend broadband service is only available for what the state and federal government consider unserved areas.”
Ontario County is not alone in thinking that much greater areas of its county is without broadband service, and the current state budget has allocated resources for the state public service department to accurately map broadband availability across the entire state, Harvey said.
“Ontario County wants to take advantage of the state effort and make sure that it comes up with accurate information,” Harvey said.
Part of the effort is getting businesses and residents to report whether they have broadband service, and Rochester-based ECC Technologies was contracted to gather that information through a participatory survey.
“We’d like to see every residence and business participate in the survey as possible by the end of the year,” Harvey said.
County Administrator Chris DeBolt, noting that rural supervisors here are saying this is a big issue for their communities, has directed the Planning Department to provide paper copies of the survey for those without internet service who do not want to complete the survey on their smart phones or at their local public library.
This issue, he said, has been flying way “under the radar,” which is one reason why the deadline has been extended.
“I don’t think many in the public really know about it,” DeBolt said.
Harvey offered tips for online survey takers, to ensure the county’s broadband availability, or lack thereof, is noted accurately.
People taking the online survey using their smart phones should not take the optional speed test as a smart phone may report its wireless commercial carrier speed; or if they are accessing their home internet connection, the speed test will be limited by their wireless router’s speed capability and may yield an artificially low reading. Anyone using a PC to complete the survey from a location other than their own home or business should complete the survey without taking the speed test (as it will measure the internet speed at the location they are located, not their home or business).
To take it
You can complete the survey online without a speed test at your local library or using your smart phone and scanning a QR code. Visit www.empirestatebroadband.com. If you want to complete a paper survey, please contact the Ontario County Planning Department at 585-396-4455.
No matter how you participate, all responses are strictly confidential.