Gillibrand Touts Proposal To Increase Funding For Rural Broadband Support
FREDONIA — In the 21st century, fast and affordable Internet access has become a necessity akin to electricity, water or phone service, but one-third of rural Americans, including 33,300 in Western New York, are at a disadvantage in this respect.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited DFT Communications in Fredonia Monday to announce her cosponsorship of the Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act, which she hopes will become law with bi-partisan support from her fellow U.S. Sen., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and House sponsor, local Congressman Tom Reed, R-C-I-Corning.
Gillibrand said high-speed Internet is an economic issue that affects everyone, from hospitals and businesses to students looking to learn. The bill would expanded opportunities for companies like DFT, which has been providing vital communications services to the area for 118 years.
“It would give our rural communities new access to federal funding that they can use to build high-speed Internet and particularly the last mile. I have heard throughout communities we have great providers all across New York, but it’s not affordable, it’s not cost efficient to provide to the most rural areas because there’s not enough customers. This would provide the money to actually feed that last mile. The bill would also solve the problem by allowing rural communities and broadband providers for a combination of both grants and loan funding. They could get up to 75 percent of the cost of the project through these resources if it is a rural area. The bill would also double the authorized amount in the Rural Utilities Broadband Service Program to $50 million, which again, will mean more communities that apply for the money will get access to those funds, which is really important,” Gillibrand added.
Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan said broadband will be critical for projects already taking place in the county.
“When I go visit our agricultural areas, our rural areas, it’s incredible the technology demand that is out there. The missing link is that rural access to high-speed Internet. We are very appreciative that your bill will help us do that extra mile. As we bring in wind farms and wind turbines into the areas out here toward Cherry Creek and Villenova, to be able to have this access is really critical to us. I will say, when you’re the county executive, you’re looking for every single thing you can get to leverage business, to leverage the economy and leverage jobs and that’s exactly what this is going to do. So on behalf of 35,000 people, thank you very much for the work you’re doing,” he said to Gillibrand.
Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas said he gets questions about broadband a lot and it would mean the difference between some businesses locating here or elsewhere.
“As mayor of the city of Dunkirk, I can’t tell you folks how hard it is to attract big business here when this is a service that we don’t already have and they have it in many areas. I can’t tell you the calls that I receive in my office, people complaining why we can’t offer this service. So I can tell you that economic development is something that on my platform on my campaign I said we were going to work hard to bring here. This service is going to help bring economic development here to our region,” he said.
Gillibrand concluded by saying it is everyone’s job now to speak up for this issue. In the Senate, the bill number is S. 3408.
Also in attendance were County Legislators Bob Bankoski and Kevin Muldowney, Richard Zink of Southern Tier West, New York State Telecommunications Association President Robert Puckett and DFT President and fifth generation Operator Mark Maytum along with DFT officials and staff.