The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) commends the Governor’s Executive Budget proposal to improve cellular coverage in upstate New York.

“We still have huge gaps in cellular coverage in too many communities across the state, and we applaud the Governor for bringing new attention to the need to close these gaps,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario.

As part of the Governor’s 2019-20 Executive Budget, the Governor proposes to launch an Upstate Cellular Coverage Task Force to identify solutions and develop policies addressing the lack of cellular coverage in areas of need. This Task Force would consist of industry experts, community leaders, local government officials, environmental representatives, and other key stakeholders.

New York State has made historic investments in infrastructure and broadband availability through the $500 million New NY Broadband Program in 2015 to achieve statewide high-speed Internet access. After full implementation of the program, more than 99 percent of New Yorkers will have access to wired broadband.

“We believe that now is the time to bring a similar focus to the lack of upstate cellular network coverage,” said Hamilton County Board Chairman William Farber, who serves as the chairman of NYSAC’s Standing Committee on Economic Development. “The lack of rural cell service undermines economic growth, impacts communications and safety, and inhibits adoption of smart municipal infrastructure. In the Adirondack Park Region and other rural upstate areas with large coverage gaps, the issue of cellular deployment has been a major local concern.”

The proposed Task Force would review existing policies, potential constraints, and available resources and funding sources, including federal support, to develop implementable recommendations for enhancing cellular coverage in unserved areas, including the Adirondacks and Catskills.

“Upstate New York, particularly within Hamilton County and the Adirondack Park, need state resources to tackle the lack of adequate cellular coverage. Cellular service is no longer a luxury; it has become a public necessity,” said Farber.

“NYSAC and our member counties are encouraged by the creation of this task force to tackle this problem. Our state residents, visitors and the public safety are at risk if people are not able to use their cell phones to dial 9-1-1 to receive emergency assistance,” said Acquario.

Matthew Simpson, Supervisor of the Town of Horicon, Warren County said “We have reached a public safety crisis. The state must act to ensure our residents, visitors, and public safety personnel in New York State have adequate cellular service coverage to respond to emergencies.”

The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving all 62 counties of New York State including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate, serve and advocate for member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public. For more information, visit www.nysac.org