State Lawmakers Seek Update on Upstate Cellular Task Force

Regional state lawmakers are seeking an update from Governor Andrew Cuomo on New York State’s Upstate Cellular Coverage Task Force, which held its first meeting in the Capitol nearly two years ago.According to the governor’s press release at that time, the task force would ‘develop potential solutions and policies to address the lack of cell service in rural and remote parts of upstate New York’.

Senator Dan Stec and Assembly Members Carrie Woerner, Matt Simpson, Robert Smullen and Billy Jones sent a letter to the governor on Wednesday following up on a letter they had sent at the end of March that did not receive a response.

“We just want to know where things stand with the task force given the fact that gaps in cellular coverage remain a serious problem in many rural communities,” said Senator Dan Stec.

“As the Governor noted in 2018, the importance of getting broadband and cellular service to all New Yorkers is an economic issue, an educational issue, a health care issue, an equity issue, and it’s a fairness issue,” said Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner.“The importance of these issues has only increased since the task force was formed.”

“Constituents continue to contact my office because there are areas throughout my district that still do not have cell phone coverage,” said Assemblyman Billy Jones.“It has been almost two years since the task force held its first meeting, and my colleagues and I are just looking for an update so we can start to take action toward addressing this pressing issue.”

“The information from the taskforce is both crucial and urgent,” said Simpson. “Stakeholders from throughout the North Country and New York State are facing rapidly approaching deadlines for grant applications geared specifically towards developing this critical infrastructure. Without the data, they are otherwise faced with making critical decisions on resource allocation and expenditures with one hand tied behind their backs.”

“The pandemic showed us the importance of emergency communications in the Adirondack region,” said Smullen. “It is a matter of public safety in the 21st century that all citizens who are in distress need to be able to reach an emergency response operator. We cannot delay the release of the study’s findings any longer. To make sure cellular connectivity is doing the best it can, the Governor and his office must release their task force’s findings immediately.”

The lawmakers said state funding was spent to do mapping but those maps have not been released publicly.They noted they are neither aware of a report nor any specific recommendations made by the task force.

In their letter to the governor, which also was sent to the chairs of the Senate and Assembly committees which oversee technology and communication, Stec, Woerner, Simpson, Smullen and Jones wrote: “We request that whatever information the task force generated be provided to us so that we may share it with our local elected officials, chambers of commerce, public safety officers and many others who remain eager for solutions to help address this important issue.”