Schumer Urges FCC To Protect Broadband Funds

Thanks to millions of dollars in federal funds, broadband and high-speed Internet service is expanding Upstate.

Many telecommunications companies gained access to the Connect America Fund, a federal investment that helped them enhance broadband access. However, some funds set aside for Upstate remain unused and are at risk of diversion to other parts of the country.

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer urged the Federal Communications Commission and Commissioner Michael O’Reilly to protect the $170 million in unused funds allocated for Upstate. The FCC was planning to take the unused money that Verizon didn’t accept from New York and bid it out nationally. Schumer, D-N.Y., says he’s advocating the FCC to grant New York’s petition to allow the state to leverage federal funding in order to incentivize private investment. That way, other companies could use the funds to improve broadband access Upstate.

Schumer said he told the commissioner that New York shouldn’t be made to suffer just because of one carrier’s decision not to take the funds.

“The federal government should be investing — not divesting –in Upstate internet access. We need to keep this broadband money for New York in New York,” Schumer said. “I will fight to make sure that this money stays in New York and is used to improve broadband access for residents across New York. This money will allow us to invest in the future and unlock more of Upstate New York’s economic potential.”

In August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to have all of New York covered with broadband and high-speed internet by 2018. Through the NY Broadband Program and federal investment, companies have been awarded funds to expand service throughout Upstate. The program supports the deployment of advanced technologies to achieve the governor’s goal of providing New Yorkers with access to internet download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second in most places and 25 mbps in the most remote parts of the state by the end of 2018.

By 2017, it’s expected that more than two million homes and businesses will have access to internet speeds of 100 megabits per second. In Chautauqua County, those living along the Lake Erie shoreline, areas around Chautauqua Lake, the French Creek and Clymer areas and other small rural sections will obtain broadband and high-speed internet access sometime this year.

Alongside Schumer, the state and Cuomo are urging the FCC maintain funds earmarked for Upstate. Many Upstate New York homes do not meet the FCC’s broadband benchmark speeds of 25 megabits per second for downloads and 2 mbps for uploads.

Schumer and U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, organized a New York congressional letter urging the FCC to keep money designated for New York.  U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, was among the group to sign onto the letter. Schumer said the FCC is considering a new proposal to allow New York residents to benefit from the millions in federal broadband funds.