Report: 1 million New Yorkers do not subscribe to an internet service

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FILE – In this Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, file photo, Travis Sheetz, a worker with the Mason County (Wash.) Public Utility District, installs fiber optic cable on a utility pole, while working with a team to bring broadband internet service to homes in a rural area surrounding Lake Christine near Belfair, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- The state has been trying to close the gap of broadband connectivity to make the internet accessible and affordable. Progress has been made, yet more than a million New York households cannot get or don’t have internet service, based on a report released Tuesday by the State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli.

DiNapoli making a point to say that more than one million New Yorkers, or 13.8%, do not subscribe to an internet service. Many of these households do not make more than $20k annually. He said that one in three low-income households do not have access to the internet. While some use smartphones with robust capabilities to address their needs, cost is commonly cited as a top reason for not having broadband at home, according to the report.

Looking a little deeper into the demographics of those New Yorkers without broadband service revealed they were more likely to not have graduated from high school, make less than $20k, or be 65 years or older.

New Yorkers who didn’t have internet access based on 2019 data

  • People with a bachelor degree- 5%
  • People without a high school education- 26.7%
  • Households making more than $75k- 4.5%
  • Households making less than $20k- 36.2%
  • People ages 18 to 64- 8%
  • People aged 65 or older- 24%

“The state has taken significant steps to make broadband available to most New Yorkers, but there is still a digital divide in rural parts of New York and for low-income New Yorkers who don’t have access or are unable to afford a home subscription. High-speed connections are an imperative for economic development and equal opportunity,” said DiNapoli.

DiNapoli says that from 2013 to 2019, the number of people without access to broadband went from a reported 518,000 to 253,000 people in New York. Approximately half of those people still without access were from Long Island (25%), Mid-Hudson Valley (12%), and New York City (12%), the report found. Individually, Allegany (23.4%), Cattaraugus (17.9%), and Hamilton (14.7%) counties had the highest percentage of people without internet.

Even with an estimated 13.6% of households without internet access, people in the Capital Region were the most connected. Only 3% of the population are without internet service.

Region% of households without access to broadband
North Country19.3%
Mohawk Valley18.2%
Central New York17.1%
Southern Tier16.6%
Western New York16.3%
New York City16%
Finger Lakes14.8%
Capital Region13.6%
Mid-Hudson12.4%
Long Island9.2%
Source: NYS Comptroller
RegionNumber of people without internet access
New York City30,762
Mid-Hudson30,349
Western New York30,041
Long Island61,231
Finger Lakes20,877
Capital Region6,198
Central New York9,549
Southern Tier19,569
Mohawk Valley18,569
North Country20,914
Source: NYS Comptroller

“Reliable, high-speed internet is a necessity to effectively work, communicate and learn in our society and that was made crystal clear during the COVID-19 pandemic when millions of New Yorkers turned their homes into schools and workplaces,” DiNapoli said.

To help more households get connected to the internet, he also said the state should take action immediately and seek funding under the American Rescue Plan by creating a detailed plan.

The plan should encompass: a way to make high-speed internet available universally including rural areas; strengthen access for low-come households as well as community institutions, schools, libraries, and parks; improve affordability especially for low-income households.

Check out the table below that shows the percentage of the population in Capital Region counties without access to broadband services. The Comptroller’s report has an interactive map with all county information.

County% of population without available broadband
Albany.3%
Columbia.8%
Fulton3.4%
Greene1.7%
Montgomery2.1%
Rensselaer0%
Saratoga.1%
Schenectady0%
Schoharie.9%
Warren3.8%
Washington2.3%
Source: NYS Comptroller

As a whole, New York ranks second nationally for accessibility to broadband services with an estimated 99% of the state with access. Comparatively, in the United States as a whole, 96% of people have access to broadband. The only state to top New York was Connecticut with just a slightly higher percentage.

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