New upstate cellular task force convenes


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has convened a task force of industry experts, community leaders, government officials, environmental representatives and other stakeholders to develop potential solutions and policies to address the lack of cell service in rural and remote parts of upstate New York, the governor’s office announced.

Cuomo proposed the Upstate Cellular Coverage Task Force in his 2019 State of the State address. It will be administered by Empire State Development. Its first meeting was Wednesday.

The task force will 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, according to the announcement.

Members are Barbara Rice, assistant secretary for economic development in the governor’s office; Jeffrey Nordhaus, executive vice president for innovation and broadband at Empire State Development; state Deputy Public Service Commissioner Thomas Congdon; Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chairman William Farber; Chris Fisher, advisor and former president of the New York State Wireless Association; Steuben County E911 Director David Hopkins; Catskill Center Executive Director Jeff Senterman; Satya Sharma, executive director of the Center of Excellence for Wireless and Information Technology at SUNY Stony Brook; state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Director Michael Sprague; and Rick Weber, deputy director for planning at the Adirondack Park Agency.

Several state legislators were named ex-officio members, including Sen. Rachel May, D-53rd Dist. of Syracuse, whose district includes the city of Oneida, Kirkland, Augusta, all of Madison County, and much of Syracuse and eastern Onondaga County.

“Every New Yorker should be able to access a stable cell connection, yet our upstate regions have struggled for too long to make the connections that are vital to everyday life and commerce,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“Today we’re leading the way forward by establishing a task force of cellular service experts, elected representatives and environmental advocates who will develop concrete policies and help to ensure service is provided and infrastructure for it is built in a sustainable way.”

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