Bipartisan Appeal To Keep Federal High-Speed Broadband Funds In NY
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and a congressman from western New York are reaching across the aisle in an effort to protect $170 million in federal broadband funding declined by Verizon and now at risk of going to other states.
Schumer, a Democrat, and Republican Buffalo-area Congressman Chris Collins wrote to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, urging the agency to agree to keep the money in New York. In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Schumer and Collins say the funding would provide vital high-speed broadband access to rural and remote areas of the state. "There was one carrier, the biggest one, that decided not to take advantage of this new funding last year, and that was Verizon. That was their prerogative. None of these bills forced them to do it. We thought it was a good incentive, and the other three companies in New York took them up on it, but Verizon didn't. And so there was $28 million to expand rural broadband that went unspent. That's over six years. So now, there's $170 million that should have been allocated to New York that is just sitting there because Verizon didn't take it."
The letter was also signed by seven other members of the state's Congressional delegation, including members from both parties.
A message left for a Verizon spokesperson has not been returned.
Schoharie County-based Middleburgh Telephone Company did take the funding, over 5 and a half million dollars worth, to bring high-speed broadband access to five towns including 70 residences located in the neighboring Albany County town of Rensselaerville, on the fringe of Midtel’s service area.
During a visit to Albany last spring, Schumer pointed out that internet access and computer skills are critical in today's economy. "Like telephones and electricity and television were in their decades, the internet now has gone from a novelty to a luxury to a necessity. Everyone relies on it. We need it to do our jobs, to study, to communicate, to do nearly everything. That means reliable, high-speed internet access is absolutely essential, for a family, a business, a school to succeed, the a hundred years ago the way electricity was."
Since early 2015, President Obama has praised cities and towns that have taken steps to expedite broadband access. "That gives them a huge competitive advantage. It means a business can come in and locate there knowing that they can hook into world markets, products, services, anywhere around the globe. You know what it feels like when you don't have a good internet connection, right? Everything's buffering, you're trying to download a video, you got that little circle thing that goes around and around. It's really aggravating."
- U.S. Census Data shows approx. 29 percent of homes in the city of Albany lack internet subscriptions. Here's a link to the 2015 American Community Survey.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.