Access to effective Internet affects not only the day-to-day functions of new and existing businesses, but also their longterm success.
Whitney Barrat, executive director of the Jamaica Center BID, has been dealing with the issue since she assumed the post last year.
“Our phone system is connected to our Internet system, so we have dropped calls pretty often, I would say daily,” she said. “If more than one of us is on the line, a call is most likely to drop.”
Barrat said residents and business owners resort to using the 17 LinkNYC kiosks that are scattered throughout the area for Internet.
And businesses in the BID are not able to use the Internet as an effective tool to enhance their businesses. Their online presence is minimal when it comes to websites, social media and online advertising.
The general standard for Internet connection is about 100 megabytes per second. Right now, the Jamaica Center BID is working with 12 megabytes per second.
Barratt said while Governor Andrew Cuomo is making broadband Internet connection a priority in upstate New York, he is ignoring Queens.
“The initiative is commendable, but this area in particular should be brought up to the rest of New York,” Barrat said. “We have the same foot traffic as 34th street in Manhattan on Jamaica Avenue and the JFK AirTrain Station, but we don’t have high-speed Internet access.”
Barat did acknowledge that certain steps were being taken to address the issue, but in the meantime businesses are suffering.
Downtown Jamaica was recently awarded $10 million by the state as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative to develop a vision for the neighborhood and business hub. Many hope that broadband Internet connection will be included in those plans.
“I don’t want to make it seem like no one is doing anything, but here we are in 2018 and we are still dealing with Internet speed one step up from dial-up,” Barrat said.
A spokesperson for the governor's office said it is working on correcting the issue.
“New York State is committed to providing access to high-speed Internet to all New Yorkers,” read a statement. “We’re proud of this Downtown Revitalization Initiative investment and look forward to seeing small businesses and families thrive and connect thanks to the new Continuous Conduit and the future local broadband marketplace.
Trey Jenkins, director of Marketing and Business Services for the BID, deals with the issue firsthand.
“There has been some frustration with the speed because something that a lot of people take for granted isn’t readily available to us,” Jenkins said. “It hampers growth and it affects revenue.
“Jamaica was a forgotten area for the past ten years or so, but there’s a lot of expansion now,” he added. “A lot of people are coming here, so to continue that growth broadband needs to follow with that.”