© 2024 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lack of broadband called a hindrance to area students, businesses

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

The push for reliable high-speed broadband internet across the community continues, with a town hall meeting Thursday night in Cheektowaga. Speakers and participants talk of a digital divide of students in the same school district who can access the web for homework and those who have to have their report cards sent home by snail mail. Speakers called for ratcheting up the pressure on the state Public Service Commission to declare broadband an essential service and force expansion of optical fiber computer lines.

NYSUT board member and Hamburg schools guidance counselor John Mrozek says broadband has become crucial for education.

"Broadband levels the playing field and, honestly, Hamburg is certainly in a position where nearly everybody has access to it. But I also speak from experience where I know that lots of communities don't. Students who don't have it, parents don't have it, they're at a deficit," Mrozek said.

In the Cheektowaga school district, guidance counselor Frank Marchese says around 60 percent of the students have broadband and the district encourages use of the library and its computers. He says that easy familiarity with computers is essential in the world students are moving into.

"The number one use of the Collins Library is for the free WiFi that's available there because no one else has access. So what we need to do is send a message that when we don't have this municipal broadband, when we don't have this access to high-speed internet and other communities across the country do, it only puts us behind the eight ball," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Poloncarz and others at the meeting say lack of high-speed broadband, not just in the Southtowns but in parts of Buffalo and Cheektowaga, hurt economic development activities because companies want high-speed service for their businesses.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.