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Time for action on cellular service

March 7, 2019 12:00 am

Greene and Columbia county officials applauded Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday for his new bid to expand cellular service in rural communities. The governor argued rightly that localities have gaps in coverage that are detrimental to residents.

Let’s rewind the cheers for a moment, though. What happened to the old bid to expand broadband to localities that have gaps in internet service? Didn’t the state pony up millions of dollars over the last five years just in Columbia and Greene counties to lengthen broadband’s reach by 2020? Where does that project stand? Is it working?

It’s been said that when governments don’t know how to solve a problem, they appoint a task force.

Well, lo and behold, Cuomo proposed as part of his 2019-20 executive budget to create a new panel, namely the Upstate Cellular Coverage Task Force to identify gaps in cellular service in upstate New York.

But the private sector has local projects in the works. AT&T plans to build a new cellular tower on Route 23B in Cairo that will expand their service in Greene County. In the public sector, Greene County plans to lease space at the tower to install 911 equipment to enhance coverage of an area around Kaaterskill Falls where a large gap exists in emergency communications.

State Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43, represents Columbia County, as well as parts of Rensselaer, Saratoga and Washington counties.

“My Senate district is greatly in need of improved cellular coverage,” Jordan said. “For years, we’ve heard endless talk from Albany on solving this critical issue of expanding cellular coverage, most notably for rural communities. It’s time for action. We need access to the reliable cellular coverage that upstate has been demanding. Expanded cellular service is not only needed for a stronger economy, it’s also a necessity for enhancing public safety for our upstate communities.”

Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, represents rural areas in Greene, Delaware and Schoharie counties.

“In my district you can be on Main Street in Catskill or Saugerties or driving from Schoharie to Delaware County and have shoddy or nonexistent cell coverage. In 2019, this is simply unacceptable,” Tague said. “We’re always looking for solutions to try to keep our children here or make the state more business-friendly, and internet availability is a perfect example of something we can improve. Modern networking relies on phone coverage. We need to upgrade and expand our service to reach all of our communities or risk them being left behind.”

Jordan and Tague are right when they say expanded cellular service is necessary for a strong economy and public safety. Cellular service, like broadband will make upstate New York more enticing to new businesses and safer for everyone.

As Jordan points out, we’ve heard enough jabbering from committees and task forces that take years to come to conclusions. All the talk should be finished. Indeed, it’s time for action.