On some mornings when she gets into work, Tully Free Library Director Annabeth Hayes finds people camped out in her parking lot on laptops, logged onto the library’s free WiFi.
Along with the local McDonald’s, the library is one of the few places in town to get free, reliable internet. In a place where one out of three households doesn’t have internet, those public hubs have become gathering places for digitally starved residents.
Tully is one of the least densely populated areas in Onondaga County. It also has the lowest rate of broadband access of any village in Central New York, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
While the city of Syracuse has a startlingly low rate of connectivity due largely to extreme poverty, rural areas like Tully suffer from a lack of infrastructure necessary for access, as well as socioeconomic constraints.
The fiber networks that carry high-speed internet simply don’t stretch down every long country road, leaving many households to rely on spotty satellite connections or cellular data plans that also have limited coverage.
Julie Maywright lives in the hamlet of Apulia Station just outside Tully. She lives on a working farm at the end of a dead-end road and doesn’t have internet. She looked into getting it when her family moved there about a year ago. But there’s no fiber laid to reach her house, meaning she has no way to get broadband internet. Even if there was, she said the $89 per month cost for a basic subscription turned her off right away.