CATSKILL — Time is running out to complete a countywide survey that seeks to identify the availability of broadband service on an address-by-address basis.
The Greene County New York Broadband Availability and Adoption Initiative was launched in early June to map the county and collect data on where high-speed internet service is available.
Residents and business owners throughout the county have until Aug. 31 to complete the survey.
“The survey will give us a data set as to what needs are out there for broadband, but it will also let us compare the data from our providers and for who actually has internet access,” Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said Tuesday.
Both homeowners and business owners are asked to fill out the survey to provide the county with a complete picture of where broadband access is available.
“People who have a home and a business, it is important they do a survey for each one,” Linger said. “The survey is guided by your answers, so a homeowner’s needs might be different than a business’ needs.”
With less than a week to go until the survey deadline, the county has exceeded its targeted response rate, Deputy County Administrator Warren Hart said Tuesday.
“We met 140% of our goal for the project,” Hart said. “We were originally targeting 850 responses and we are over 1,300 responses. A big thank you to all of the Greene County residents and business owners that participated in the survey.”
In addition to the survey, the county is also working with ECC Technologies, a communications and technology consulting service based in Penfield, to manually determine where broadband infrastructure is lacking. The county also worked with the four area internet providers — Mid-Hudson Cable, State Telephone, Spectrum Cable and Margaretville Telephone Company — to determine broadband availability.
After the Aug. 31 survey deadline, all the data will be analyzed and a report will be produced detailing building-by-building internet access.
“That survey will help us cross-reference the responses with the actual mapping that we have done in the county, and that actual mapping was done in partnership with our local internet service providers,” Hart said. “It also included field work by our contractor, ECC Technologies, their engineers in the field and a substantial amount of effort by our real property tax office.”
After the Aug. 31 survey deadline, the county will pull the numbers together and produce the report, which can then be used to apply for funding to build out broadband in areas where it is lacking.
“We are in a very good position to be able to have the necessary information to apply for state and federal funding for broadband,” Hart said. “You have to have real data and a real business model to request funding.”
The report is expected to be completed by October, Hart said.
The county is in a good position with solid data and mapping capabilities, he added.
“We are very advanced now with the mapping for Greene County,” Hart said. “New York state earlier this year indicated they would provide street-level mapping across the entire state and their target date was for a year from now, so we are about a year ahead in Greene County because it is such a priority for the county, including for economic development.”
Federal broadband maps were released recently by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, but the maps are too broad to be useful, Hart said.
“The maps that were produced by the NTIA at the federal level aren’t really as helpful or useful as our street-level maps are, partly because those maps were based on census tracks — we need street-level maps in order to prepare business plans for contracting with companies to extend broadband,” Hart said.
The project’s next step will be to collect the survey data and results from the field work by ECC Technologies, cross reference that with maps provided by the county’s four internet providers and then come up with a cost estimate for building out broadband into unserved or underserved areas. Then the county will use the report to apply for state or federal funding to upgrade the county’s infrastructure.
The county has also received about $9.15 million in COVID-19 stimulus funding under the American Rescue Plan Act, and county lawmakers are considering using a portion of that money for broadband infrastructure, Hart said.
The deadline to complete the broadband survey is Aug. 31. The survey can be accessed by visiting GreeneBroadband.com. Residents without internet access are advised to use a computer at a public library or other locations or respond to the survey via a mobile device. Paper surveys can also be obtained by calling 518-719-3270 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.