Public input sought on broadband experience, level of service, speed; study data will help improve broadband service to underserved residents
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has announced a public meeting to be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, at the Erie County Fire Training Academy to discuss the county's broadband internet study. The session will provide an opportunity for residents to learn more about the study. It will introduce a broadband survey campaign for individuals and businesses to include information regarding their own experiences with broadband service and speed.
The broadband survey campaign is a key component of the study and will collect important information on residents and business broadband experience and level of service. While a recent broadband inventory analysis of Erie County documented available infrastructure and services, this online website campaign is intended to provide local officials with the additional information necessary to develop broadband improvement plans and policies countywide. The website features a speed test and simple online survey, and can be completed by both residential and commercial respondents. The broadband campaign not only analyzes the statistical survey results and speed tests, but also tracks this data using a geographic information system (GIS) database to map survey results.
"Reliable high-speed broadband is a necessity no matter where you live or what you do, but coverage, service and speed vary depending on where in the county you are. This should not be the case, so I authorized the initial study in an effort to get a better picture of how Erie County performs in terms of service providers and coverage," Poloncarz said. "What we found is that there are limited provider options and bandwidth speeds available to consumers in the metropolitan area of the county, and that the choice and service available in outer towns and villages noticeably drops off. In order to decide how to improve broadband options to our underserved residents, we need more precise data from our constituents. We're hoping to get that data using this CrowdFiber campaign."
Diminished or nonexistent high-speed broadband access has educational, economic and community impacts, and survey respondents are encouraged to report both on the services available to them and services they would like to have. Residents without internet access at home can take the survey at their local library. Students at local schools will also be bringing fliers home notifying families to go to the website for an online response, or fill out and return to school a paper survey.
"We knew that some of the more affluent areas in Erie County have quality coverage, but there are still many homes and businesses within our county relying on slow internet speeds that simply can't meet 21st century technological requirements," added Erie County Legislator Patrick B. Burke (7th District). "The FCC recently changed the definition of broadband speeds to 25 Mbps download by 3 Mbps upload, so even those residents who have DSL no longer qualify as having high-speed internet. And this is something we've heard repeatedly from our constituents. A lot of people are very unhappy with the speeds they have and the options available to upgrade their service at a reasonable cost."