By Sarah Hall
Central New Yorkers’ access to high-speed internet will soon increase, thanks to a program from Spectrum.
Spectrum, formerly Time Warner Cable, offers a low-cost program that provides high-speed internet to eligible customers (for eligibility requirements, see sidebar). The company introduced the program May 4 at the Southwest Community Center with the help of Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter.
“It’s providing a means for people who do not have internet access to be able to now have access to the internet so they can utilize it for school, utilize it for work,” Hunter said. “I’m so appreciative that this program is available.”
While the program launch took place in the 128th District, it’s available throughout Central New York. Spectrum and Charter Communications, its parent company, plan to make low-cost internet available to all of their customers by the middle of the year.
“We’re committed to expanding access to broadband in the communities we serve,” said Andrew Russell, Charter Communications’ director of communications for the northeast. “People rely on internet access for everything from education and entertainment, to grocery shopping and applying for jobs. Businesses of all sizes rely on broadband to find customers and to provide the products and services their customers need, at home and internationally.”
Spectrum Internet Assistance (SIA) offers those eligible broadband speeds “three times faster than comparable services offered by competitors,” according to a release from the company, “making SIA the only low-cost broadband service for low- income households that meets and even exceeds the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) definition of ‘high-speed.’”
Russell said the company believes it’s important to bridge the “digital divide” between socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Everyone [should have] access to the information and tools they need to succeed in today’s economy,” he said.
That divide is no myth: According to studies from the Pew Research Institute, those who earn less are far less likely to have broadband service in their homes. As of November of 2016, while 93 percent of homes with an income of more than $75,000 had in-home broadband, only 53 percent of homes with an income of under $30,000 did. Of the 33 percent of American homes that didn’t have broadband, the primary reason was the monthly cost of a subscription, and two thirds of those non-subscribers said it put them at a distinct disadvantage of some sort.
“Most people think it’s a luxury to have internet, but it’s really a necessity,” Hunter said. “Without access to the internet, you can’t find a better job. It’s all online. You need it for school assignments. You need it to check your grades. You need it for research. We need to be able to provide it to people so that they can live and thrive in the community.”
Hunter said the SIA program will help those who can’t afford a $50 a month plan to “participate in aspects of the community that others have been able to for a long time.”
“They can now do this in their own homes,” she said. “They don’t have to go to the public library to check their email or to send a job application. It’s so very important and crucial to our community.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.