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Hochul Previews Statewide Broadband Initiative

WAMC/Pat Bradley

In her first visit to the region since taking office earlier this month, New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul was in Lake Placid this morning to preview a plan that will see a billion dollars invested in broadband development across the state.

The lieutenant governor traveled to Lake Placid with a message: Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to use some of the state’s $5 billion surplus to make high-speed broadband available to everyone in the state.

The state’s Chief Digital Officer and Deputy Secretary for Technology for Rachel Haot said New York is doing more than any other state to invest in high-speed internet technology.  “Governor Cuomo’s New New York Broadband Program will be the largest universal broadband deployment in the nation,  investing up to one billion dollars in both public and private resources to connect every New Yorker to high speed internet. With a state investment of $500 million in capital funds from bank settlements the program will incentivize the private sector to expand high speed broadband access to under-served New Yorkers. The plan will elevate broadband speeds in under-served areas to previously unheard levels including a minimum speed of 100 megabits per second, more than ten times the federal definition of broadband.”

Hochul said this broadband initiative is one of the most important programs the governor will outline in next week’s state of the state address.  “He’s going to present them as part of a package: the New York State Opportunity for All. This is one of the most significant announcements he’s going to make because it’s going to affect the lives of so many millions of people in our state. In this day and age the fastest road to opportunity is the information highway. Probably the comparable analogy would be the interstate highway system back in the 1950's. That was able to connect communities and enhance commerce. It was transformative. It was essential in its day. That’s the opportunity that lies before us.”

Examples of the need for high-speed broadband include Hamilton County, which currently has no access to it.  Republican Assemblyman Dan Stec represents the 114th district, which includes Essex and Warren counties and parts of Saratoga and Washington counties. He described the challenges some of his constituents have accessing the Internet.   “There are towns in my district that don’t have good access to the internet. Moms and dads will drive their son or daughter and park in the parking lot of the public library or park in the parking lot of Town Hall to access a broadband wireless connection. That’s crazy.  It’s nice to see the governor making the infrastructure investment that needs to be made in the North Country and frankly in all of upstate.”

While Hochul made the announcement in the Adirondacks, she cited a number of areas in New York that need broadband access.  “My old congressional district, I had seven counties Wyoming, Livingston, Ontario, Niagara, Genesee. A lot of the center part of the state that are further away from the larger urban areas like Buffalo and Rochester, that land between. The Southern Tier has challenges as well. We have a map that shows the areas which do not have the access and so we know where to have a laser focus on increasing that availability. We know New York City’s in good shape. The urban areas are in good shape. So this is very much a rural initiative.”

The plan calls for statewide access to the network by 2019. Each Regional Economic Development Council will be required to submit a plan outlining underserved areas, local demand and cost-effective strategies for deploying access.

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