Assemblyman Jake Ashby (R,C,I,Ref-Castleton) and his colleagues wrote letters to the president, the state congressional delegation, Gov. Cuomo and other state officials to release funds meant to expand broadband internet infrastructure throughout New York. High-speed internet has become critical for New Yorkers to work from home, participate in distance learning, access doctors and counselors for telehealth care and remain connected to family and friends, but many regions of the state are underserved by broadband.
There is dedicated funding that the federal government and the state need to release so broadband could be expanded into underserved communities throughout New York. We have seen how critical it is that workers, students, patients and loved ones have access to high-speed internet during this time, said Ashby. This is a matter that impacts rural communities and cities alike. New York made a promise ages ago to bring broadband to everyone, its time to deliver on that promise.
The letter to the president and federal officials requested that a significant portion of CARES Act funding designated for broadband expansion be given to New York state because of its disproportional impact from COVID-19:
- $25 million for distance learning, telemedicine, and broadband programs to expand these services to patients and students in New York;
- $100 million in grants from the Rural Utilities Service Broadband Deployment Pilot Program;
- $200 million from the FCC Connected Care Pilot Program to support telehealth;
- $45 million to expand FEMA information technology and communications capabilities; and
- $9 million for CISA supply chain for impacted critical infrastructure coordination.
Additionally, they are asking for the $170 million in awarded funds from FCC in 2017 to be released to New York by the end of the year. Only $55.4 million has been issued.
Ashby also recommends that the state prioritize expanding broadband infrastructure by:
- Ensuring critical workers have access to broadband;
- Use the regional reopening process to identify students who are underserved by high-speed internet, and reach out to businesses to assess their access to broadband to use this information to map out broadband coverage throughout the state to be reported to the Legislature and public;
- Establish a hotline for residents of the state to report their lack of access to internet services;
- Fair allocation of funding to expand infrastructure, especially in rural regions of New York; and
- Wave regulatory barriers to expand infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic to expire one year after the emergency period has ended.