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Both parties praise broadband funds

Funds for digital speed might meet a need Ghent Councilwoman Patti Matheney (D) introduced Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-19th) at a press conference August 2 at the West Ghent Community Center. Rep. Delgado announced approval of funds for broadband access in remote parts of Ghent, Canaan, Austerlitz and New Lebanon in the House 2022 budget. Photo by Emilia Teasdale

GHENT—Representative Antonio Delgado (D-19th), along with state and local officials, held a press conference at the West Ghent Community Center August 2 to discuss federal funding of $829,594 the congressman secured “that will allow more than 300 rural upstate homes and businesses in the towns of Ghent, Canaan, New Lebanon, and Austerlitz to be connected to high-speed broadband” internet service, according to a press release.

On July 29, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4502, a package of seven appropriations bills funding various federal agencies for Fiscal Year 2022. Rep. Delgado led his colleagues in securing funding for programs including agriculture investments, workforce development, addiction treatment, and Lyme disease research as well as an increased capacity for maternal healthcare, addressing first responder needs, and this funding for local broadband.

Rep. Delgado also secured $82,000 for the Village of Philmont Fire Department to purchase 12 new air packs and replace the currently broken 81-year-old fire siren.

At the press conference Monday, August 2 the congressman was joined by town and state officials. Several stressed the importance of broadband and talked about the process of getting to this point in finding the funding. Ghent Councilwoman Patti Matheney (D) introduced Congressman Delgado at the press conference and thanked him for “listening to our needs.” She talked about approaching the supervisors of the four towns and their broadband committees, inspired by the congressman’s message of connecting local officials with the federal government “about the things that will make a real difference in our lives.”

During his remarks, Rep. Delgado called broadband a necessity, saying, “It’s the 21st century.” He also talked about the collaborative, cooperative thinking that went into this project.

“We’ll be tracking this very closely in the Senate,” he said of the budget, which now having been passed by the House moves to the Senate.

The congressman, whose district includes all of Columbia County and all of 10 other counties in the Mid-Hudson Valley and Catskills, continued by saying that he will do “everything we can to make sure these funds are included into the budget.” Later in the press conference Rep. Delgado said the current federal fiscal calendar year extends through September. But he said there is a collective need to get this done.

State Senator Daphne Jordan (R-43rd), Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th) and Assemblyman Jake Ashby (R-107th) all spoke. Senator Jordan said that this issue is bigger than “partisan politics.”

“This is what government working together looks like,” said Assemblymember Barrett.

We’ll be tracking this very closely in the Senate.’

Rep. Antonio Delgado (D)

19th Congressional District

Ghent Supervisor Mike Benvenuto (R) talked about forming a broadband committee that led to the formation of Connect Columbia. Several people thanked David Berman, co-chair of Columbia Connect, during their remarks.

Canaan Town Supervisor Brenda Adams talked about the aging population in her town and the need to have access to broadband as a public health issue. New Lebanon Supervisor Tistrya Houghtling talked about students, saying with this funding “we going to be able to say you have equal access to the education you are entitled to.”

Austerlitz Town Board member Jere Wrightsman spoke about the difficulty of working from home with slow download speeds. “This is a very important thing personally and for the community I live in,” he said of access to broadband.

Some speakers mentioned the pandemic, but Rep. Delgado said that access to broadband is essential under any conditions, saying, “If you don’t have broadband during a pandemic, the problems are more compounded.” He also stressed it’s been an issue facing this county for a long time.

In 2019, the congressman held a Congressional Field Hearing with Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Geoffrey Starks at Columbia-Greene Community College (C-GCC). The hearing was titled, “Closing the Digital Divide: Connecting Rural Americans to Reliable Internet Service” and was focused on the need to expand rural broadband access and affordability in upstate New York.

In addition to the funding for broadband access here, Rep. Delgado-led community project funding will benefit multiple projects:

* $300,000 in funding to add 18 beds to Northern Dutchess Hospital’s Neugarten Birth Center and replace outdated patient safety and monitoring equipment measures

* $8 million funding for Lyme disease research.

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