More than $170 million in federal funds that could have been sent to other states will be returned to Upstate New York to expand broadband and high speed internet service, state officials announced on Jan. 27.
The bipartisan effort was announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, and Rep. Chris Collins.
“This is huge news for rural communities all across Upstate New York. From the very beginning, I was very clear with the FCC that this $170 million belongs strictly to New York and should be kept here,” said Schumer. “The federal government’s job should be to invest not divest in Upstate New York’s internet access.”
He said other broadband companies in Upstate New York “will now have the opportunity to work with the state in order to bid on this funding to improve Upstate’s broadband access. As long as I’m Senator, I will never let New Yorkers access to broadband suffer just because one carrier chose not to invest in New York.”
“Access to rural broadband is crucial for Western New Yorkers,” said Collins. “We have tirelessly fought to keep this money in New York State and I am excited for Western New Yorkers that the FCC listened. This money is a critical investment in New York’s future.”
Officials said several telecommunications companies are using federal investment from the Connect America Fund to expand broadband Upstate, but one national carrier did not accept the money it was allocated. The Federal Communications Commission wanted to take this unused money from New York and bid it out nationally.
These federal funds would complement the $500 million New NY Broadband Program announced by Cuomo in 2015. New York state has proposed to the FCC the alignment of this $170 million with the New NY Broadband Program in order to provide service that is better, faster and cheaper to residents in need.
This CAF money will be used in conjunction with existing state resources to fund certain areas of Round 3 of the New NY Broadband Program, which will bring high-speed internet services to New York’s most unserved rural areas.
The federal funding is contingent upon the state’s current investments and reaffirms New York’s commitment to broadband expansion. The $500 million New NY York Broadband Program, which provides funding for high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved areas across the state, is the largest and most ambitious state investment in broadband in the nation.
Officials said 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. This goal far exceeds the 10 Mbps requirement of the CAF program and also requires that projects be completed on a more accelerated timeline.
According to state officials, 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 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads.
According to the FCC’s 2015 Broadband Progress Report, the previous 4 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads standard, set in 2010, were dated and inadequate for evaluating whether advanced broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way. 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.
According to the FCC’s 2015 report, using this updated service benchmark means that approximately 55 million Americans – 17 percent of the total population – lack access to advanced broadband. This divide is particularly evident between urban and rural areas. In fact, more than half of all rural Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service.
According to New York state, as of December 2015, there were approximately 239,177 households across Upstate New York that did not have access to 25 Mbps service. According to the FCC, there were 78,245 households in Upstate NY where Verizon declined funding. Pursuant to an order issued by the FCC, New York state will award this declined funding of $170 million over 10 years in concert with upcoming rounds of its broadband auction.