A communications carrier wouldn’t take federal money and now that cash is going to upstate NY

One thing Democrats and Republicans representing upstate New York can agree on — more money should go to boost internet connections.

In a stroke of luck for upstate, national telecommunications carrier Verizon rejected a chunk of federal funds for expanding broadband in New York. The Federal Communications Commission wanted to take the unused money and bid it out nationally. But after pressure from elected officials on both sides of the aisle, that money will stay in New York where rural areas need it.

Nationally, about half of all rural Americans lack access to advanced broadband, according to the FCC. In upstate New York, nearly 240,000 households have no access to 25 megabits per second (Mbps) service — the federal standard for advanced telecommunications.

The FCC reported that 78,245 households are in the upstate area where Verizon declined funding. This funding of $170 million can now be used by other broadband companies upstate, determined through a bidding process.

"Access to rural broadband is crucial for Western New Yorkers," said Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, whose district includes part of Ontario County.

“This money is a critical investment in New York's future,” stated Collins, adding he is “proud to have partnered” with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo “to get this done.”

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who also pushed for the funding, stated that the $170 million will be used over 10 years and combined with additional state funds to expand broadband in upstate. The federal funds will combine with some $500 million through the New NY Broadband Program announced in 2015. The goal will be providing residents with better, faster and cheaper broadband in underserved areas, Gillibrand stated.

The New NY Broadband Program sets as its goal access to speeds of 100 Mbps for all New Yorkers, with 25 Mbps acceptable in the most remote and rural areas. The state program also requires that projects be completed on a more accelerated timeline than the federal standard.

Many upstate New York homes do not meet New York’s enhanced goal of 100 Mbps nor the FCC’s broadband benchmark speeds of 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads.

According to the FCC’s 2015 Broadband Progress Report, the previous standards for downloads and uploads, set in 2010, “were dated and inadequate for evaluating whether advanced broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way,” stated a release from Schumer. “Increasing the standards for broadband speed is necessary because a single internet connection typically powers a number of connected devices in a home. This means that, the more devices connected, the more the speed is degraded for each individual user.”

Editor's note

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