Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in May.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in May. Credit: Charles Eckert

Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday that 436,000 Long Islanders have slow internet service and a report by the Federal Communications Commission paints a too-rosy picture of broadband access.

Schumer cited a Microsoft report from December that estimated 125,000 residents in Nassau and 311,000 more in Suffolk had slower-than-acceptable internet speeds and were missing out on true broadband service. The FCC defines the minimum broadband speed for downloads as 25 megabits per second [MBPS].

The FCC has said nearly all Long Islanders have access to broadband internet.

Schumer, speaking at his office on Sunday, said some Long Islanders may be paying for faster service than they're getting and the FCC should not rely on internet service providers to self-report the data.

“The FCC needs to account for the massive disparity in reported speeds and the real frustration of many New Yorkers who are at a net loss all around when their internet service is slow, possibly paying for speeds that are not as advertised and losing out on their own productivity,” Schumer said.

Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School and author of books on internet access, said Sunday he supported Schumer's push.

"The cable and phone companies have routinely deceived the public when it comes to the broadband speeds they promise and what they deliver," Wu said in a statement. "And unfortunately the FCC has been complicit in this deception for many years.”

The FCC did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.

Schumer said he wants the FCC to conduct a thorough review into the disparity in data between that supplied by service providers and information in the Microsoft study, which used data generated by internet devices. Specifically, Schumer questioned federal policy allowing providers to count some areas where they are not actually providing service. Schumer said service providers can use the coverage of one household in a census block to account for coverage throughout the entire area.

The FCC then uses this data to assess the state of broadband access in the United States and complete its annual broadband report. Schumer wants the FCC and providers to take corrective action that ensures accurate reporting and better coverage, which translates into fairer prices.

Microsoft has launched a pilot plan to gain entry into the broadband market, according to the company's report.

The FCC reports that the percentage of people who don’t use internet at broadband speeds in New York City and Long Island counties is less than 1 percent. However, the Microsoft study shows a large disparity in those numbers.

Nine percent of Nassau County residents and 20 percent of Suffolk residents don't have broadband, according to the Microsoft report.

According to Microsoft’s study, about 162.8 million Americans do not use the internet at acceptable or advertised broadband speeds, an estimate that is far greater than the FCC’s estimate of 24.7 million people without broadband access.

With Ivan Pereira

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