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Rep., senators announce $640K+ for rural broadband

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WASHINGTON, DC—There is $640,296 in funding for rural broadband deployment in Columbia and Greene counties, according to separate press releases, from Representative Antonio Delgado (D-19), and senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) awarded Mid-Hudson Data Corp. as part of the 12th wave of funding from the Connect America Fund Phase II Auction.

Mid-Hudson Data Corp. will provide high speed broadband service to 459 locations in three counties in upstate New York, two of which are Columbia and Greene. Mid-Hudson Data Corp. will receive the funding later this month.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing digital divide that leaves so many of our upstate businesses, students and seniors without access to affordable or reliable broadband internet. With many families spending more time at home and small businesses moving online, it is unacceptable that so many upstate communities are disadvantaged in this way. We have much more work to do to make sure our communities are able to be connected and ensure these technological investments are built to last,” Rep. Delgado said in a press release.

“The current public health crisis is making it all too clear that the digital gap in communities across Upstate New York is far too wide. With this federal investment, rural and underserved communities will have improved, more reliable voice and internet services to help them stay connected during these difficult times. I’ll continue fighting tooth and nail to secure funding that brings our rural economies upstate into the 21st century,” Senator Schumersaid  in a press release about the funding.

“This funding is great news for New Yorkers, as families, workers, and businesses across the state depend on fast internet and voice services now more than ever. I will continue fighting for the resources needed to keep our communities connected during this unprecedented health crisis,” Senator Gillibrand said in the release.

Rep. Delgado has been an active advocate for rural broadband deployment. Last fall, he introduced a legislative package comprised of two bills that empower communities to improve flawed broadband mapping procedures. The first, the Broadband Speed Act would require internet service providers to annually report data to the FCC that shows the actual speeds they are capable of providing, as opposed to what they can potentially provide within 7-10 business days. This will help demonstrate to the FCC where broadband service is actually matching the speeds being advertised, and where there are still gaps in service. The legislation would also require that new FCC funding awards be built out at speeds of 100 mbps or higher to ensure that they are built to last.

The second bill, the Community Broadband Mapping Act, would allow local governments, electric/telephone cooperatives, economic development/community groups and small internet providers to access USDA Rural Utility Service broadband programs for grant funding that would allow them to collect information on local broadband service. This will allow communities who are currently incorrectly designated by the FCC as having service to take action to have the information necessary to dispute that status with the FCC in any future challenge process at the FCC or at the state level.

In total, the FCC’s Connect America Fund Phase II Auction in 2018 allocated $1.488 billion in support over the next ten years to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses in 45 states. The FCC has now authorized twelve waves of funding, and the most recent action brings total authorized funding to over $1.444 billion, which is expanding connectivity to 632,420 homes and businesses nationwide. Funding rounds will continue until the authorization process is complete. Providers must build out to 40% of the assigned homes and businesses in the areas won in a state within three years. Buildout must increase by 20% in each subsequent year, until complete buildout is reached at the end of the sixth year.

The Connect America Fund Phase II Auction is part of a broader effort by the FCC to close the digital divide in rural America. In January, the FCC established the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which will direct up to $20.4 billion to expand broadband in unserved rural areas. The initial RDOF Order excluded all of New York from being eligible for Phase 1 of RDOF ($16 billion).

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