October 12, 2016

Senator Gillibrand Announces Bipartisan Legislation To Help Close Broadband Gap In Upstate New York's Rural Areas, Build An Improved Broadband System In Areas Of Highest Need

With Close to 24,500 Capital District Residents Lacking Access to High-Speed Internet, Senator Gillibrand’s Bill Would Create New Opportunities to Combine Grants and Loans to Finance Rural Broadband Projects

Glens Falls, N.Y. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today announced the Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act, bipartisan legislation that would help close the broadband gap in rural areas to help ensure that all New Yorkers have access to high-speed Internet. This bill would expand resources available for building high-speed broadband infrastructure by creating a new program to combine grants and loans to help finance projects serving rural and tribal areas. 

“Reliable, fast internet access isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity in the 21st century economy,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Lack of affordable broadband service cuts off families and businesses from critical services. The Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act would give our rural communities across upstate New York access to the resources they need to get online and stay competitive in our digital economy. I’m proud to be working with Senator Capito on this bipartisan legislation, and I look forward to seeing it pass the Senate and ultimately become law.” 

“The future of our Upstate rural communities depends upon reliable broadband service for our children, farmers and commercial growth and development,” said Greg MacConnell, President and General Manager PrimeLink, Inc. “Our students need the benefit of world-class educational resources, farmers need to reach “smart farm” cloud based management systems and small businesses need to compete with much larger companies on a global basis.” 

“Warren County residents, businesses and school age children in many parts of our county lack access to broadband connectivity, experience a poor quality of service and at times lack of affordability,” says Economic Development Corporation Warren County President Ed Bartholomew.  “This lack of access creates an economic and educational gap in opportunities and resources for Warren County residents. Senator Gillibrand’s legislative initiative Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act, provides a great opportunity for Warren County to move forward with this important priority.   EDC strongly supports this effort of Senator Gillibrand and is most appreciative of her commitment to upstate New York and particularly Warren County.” 

An estimated 34 million Americans do not have access to high-speed broadband internet according to the FCC. Broadband has not been adopted by about 30 percent of American households and that level is even higher in low-income communities. In rural and tribal areas, approximately 40 percent of the population does not have access to broadband. Further, when high-speed broadband is available, consumers often have only one choice for service and pay more for high-speed plans than consumers in some other advanced countries. 

The Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act would allow for federal grants of up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, and up to 75 percent for remote, high-need areas, to be awarded in combination with loan funding already available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service. This legislation also doubles the authorized funding for the Rural Utilities Service’s Broadband programs to $50 million per fiscal year. By allowing for grant-loan combination financing, this proposal would provide adequate resources to private sector providers, state and local governments, and Indian tribes or tribal organizations to expand high-speed, affordable broadband access to underserved rural areas. 

Senator Gillibrand introduced this bipartisan bill on September 28th along with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). The legislation is supported by the American Library Association, Center for Rural Strategies, Chazy & Westport Communications, Clarkson University, National Association of Counties, National Association of Development Organizations, National Association of Towns and Townships, National Center for Frontier Communities, National Conference of State Legislatures, National League of Cities, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) Inc., SLIC Network Solutions, State Agriculture and Rural Leaders, The Development Corporation, Twinstate Technologies, Westelcom, and WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband.