Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - From accessing records and information to conducting important business and connecting with the community. It can be argued that internet access is a crucial and essential tool for the public to have readily available.
Senators representing New York State, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both believe that in the year 2023, internet access should no longer be a luxury.
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"Access to the internet is not a luxury. It's a necessity," said Senator Gillibrand.
"Investing in internet can create enormous economic opportunity. It has lifelong impacts, especially for kids. Research suggests that it leads to new business creation, lowers unemployment rates, creates jobs, raises property values, and improves life and health outcomes in our communities."
Through the American Rescue Plan, $100 million dollars in federal funding was secured for New York State to combat the accessibility issue, making this the largest targeted investment in affordable housing connectivity in the nation.
Local elected leaders and some internet companies are taking action to service their cities and towns to provide more choice, access and affordable options to the public.
A prime local example is what is happening in North Tonawanda.
Mayor Austin Tylec requested Greenlight Networks to bring their fiber-optic internet to North Tonawanda, bringing fast fiber-optic internet at a more affordable price.
"We need more options," said Mayor Tylec. "It's everything. Whether you're buying groceries online, ordering from Amazon, writing those reports and running your business through your home, it's incredibly important. It's our day to day lives, including students who need to do work, whether it's college or high school, internet is there in every aspect of our lives."
Mayor Tylec says that bringing fast fiber-optic internet to residents of North Tonawanda is all part of the plan as the city and industry continues to expand.
"Reenvisioning what industry means here. The tech industry is a growing thing. How can New York start to play a part in that? Having access to high speed fiber internet is a really crucial piece of that. And I think this is only going to be one of the pieces of that infrastructure we need to develop not just residentially but on the tech industry for businesses that want to come here and expand," said the mayor.
Greenlight Networks agree that affordable internet for all is the new normal.
"It's now a necessity for everyone, you know, just like water or electricity. In today's digital age, it's become an essential tool, not only for work at home, but also education, communication, really, everything you do, from your entertainment to your banking to connecting with your families, it's done through the internet. Having access to high speed internet is really important," said Michelle Sadwick, Senior Vice President Marketing & Customer Experience at Greenlight Networks.
How big of an impact does internet access and reliability impact a community?
"It's significant. When a company, like Green Light comes into a community, we're investing in the community. We're investing in upgrading the infrastructure of any municipality of a community. That's an investment that really future proofs that community, it brings value to the residents, you know, it gives them access to high speed internet and it puts people to work," Sadwick said.
Sadwick says while they value the efforts of elected officials on bringing internet to underserved communities, as it is "critically important," they may have a different interpretation of what underserved communities are, which are people who only have one option in internet providers and those who have insufficient internet speeds.
Affordability is another key factor, which is why there are programs to make Green Light Networks even more affordable.
"Greenlight is a participant in a federally funded program called The Affordable Connectivity program. That's a program that originally rolled out when COVID hit. It was originally called the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. That provides a $30 benefit to any income qualified participant. And there's many people in our communities that already qualify for public assistance that can also take advantage of this program and get $30 a month off their internet service."