Broadband issues for rural communities: Coverage issues and possible solutions


ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. (WUTR-TV) — A few weeks ago a fire ripped through a home in Oriskany Falls and the family inside couldn’t get a signal to call for help. Coverage problems like these are all too common in rural communities.

” My wife woke up in the morning She went downstairs to make some food and she smelled smoke….she went to get something from the garage and she saw smoke and flames in the garage.” – Igor Voyku, Resident of the home

Igor’s wife quickly ran down their driveway and after several minutes, she was able to flag down a delivery driver to call for help. The driver then had to travel nearly a mile down the road to get enough service to make the call.

“And by the time they got back, I think it was around 24 minutes, the fire was going already.” – Igor Voyku, Resident of the home

The computer aided dispatch (CAD) report showed that the 911 center had trouble receiving the call because of poor cell service. Once the call went through first responders arrived in four minutes. But, a fire doubles in size every minute, so when crews made it to the house it was fully engulfed in flames.

“There was no saving it so, time is critical. And especially any emergency medical calls, heart attacks and we just need to improve this service. If people expect it and we can’t deliver it if we don’t know it or can’t communicate.” Jim Dowd, Assistant Fire Chief, Oriskany Falls Fire Department

Unfortunately, broadband coverage has been an ongoing issue for rural communities.

“We’ve been in the area for around maybe 15 years and there hasn’t been, in that specific part of the valley, there hasn’t really been any service for awhile.” – Igor Voyku, Resident of the home

“We have very poor cell service in a lot of our areas. In the town of Augusta, especially in he village of Oriskany Falls.” – Jim Dowd, Assistant Fire Chief, Oriskany Falls Fire Department

We reached out to emergency services in both Herkimer County and Otsego County. Herkimer said they haven’t had issues with people calling for help but Otsego County said they face the same challenges as Oneida County. Congressman Brindisi says having proper coverage is a necessity.

“Not having access to Broadband or high-speed internet is a public safety concern. It hurts small businesses who are trying to compete in a global economy, it hurts individuals and parents who are trying to help their children with homework .You’ve got to have access to high-speed internet.” – Rep. Anthony Brindisi, NY-22

If that call went through during the start of the fire, Igor and his family might still have a home. 

“I want to thank the neighbors as well, and the fire department, the ambulances, everyone was great. But, you know it was up until the point of getting the call was the hardest part.” – Igor Voyku, Resident in the home

Local elected officials are pushing for more coverage in rural areas and hoping to prevent this from ever happening again.

“I have an appropriation amendment that I added, which would say no funding is allowed for broadband mapping that’s entirely based on census block methodology.” – Rep. Antonio Delgado, NY-19

Congressman Brindisi says there’s a broadband survey that will be used to investigate areas of concern.

“We’ve started a broadband survey within the district to try to get a better understanding as to where broadband coverage is lacking so that we can then provide that information to the FCC. As they develop grants, that money can go to the areas that need it most.” – Rep. Anthony Brindisi, NY-22

Broadband connections are far from being resolved but elected officials are working towards advancing coverage for rural communities throughout New York State.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.