October 12, 2016

Standing At Primelink, 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 48,000 North Country 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

Plattsburgh, NY – 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 affordable, 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.” 

“Senator Gillibrand's legislation will mean broadband Internet service opportunities for businesses and homes in the North Country and in rural areas across America. In New York, Governor Cuomo also recognizes that reliable, high-speed access is a necessity of modern life, and we are making a billion-dollar investment to ensure connectivity for all New Yorkers by 2019. I applaud Senator Gillibrand's leadership and vision and I'm honored to join her on an issue critical to our state's economic future,” said Kathy Hochul Lieutenant Governor of the State of New York. ? 

“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.” 

“Slic Network Solutions applauds all of the efforts to bring affordable high speed Internet to the otherwise unserved and underserved communities across the state,” said Kevin Lynch, VP, Technical Operations Nicholville Telephone Company. “As a leader in Northern New York for delivering broadband Internet via fiber optic lines directly to the home – We’ve leveraged previous funding from USDA Rural Utility Services to connect over 4000 unserved residences in the past 4 years -- Slic knows firsthand the transformative power of broadband, leveraging educational opportunities, improving health care services, and providing access to national and global markets to many rural communities. These new funding initiatives will further bridge the broadband gap, and move our residents and communities forward, faster.” 

“Crown Point Telephone appreciates Sen. Gillibrand’s commitment to the rural territories of the North Country as well as her understanding of the challenges presented in serving them,” said Shana Macy, President of Crown Point Telephone Corporation. “We proudly support her efforts with this legislation and look forward to seeing it become a useful tool for service providers in these areas.”

“As an experienced fiber Internet provider in Plattsburgh, Westelcom knows the challenges that burden large scale fiber deployment.  Therefore, we support this legislation to grow the rural communities that Internet providers cannot currently reach affordably,”  said James Forcier, CEO of Westelcom. “This Act is guaranteed to raise interest from companies like Westelcom by supporting providers to focus outside the boundaries of the bigger markets.  This will enhance economic growth and development in the struggling areas that have been isolated from the opportunities that Internet services enable.”   

“Mohawk Networks’ wireless broadband technology uses existing towers to deliver high speed Internet to un-served areas at a fraction of the cost of traditional fiber. Our technology exceeds FCC standards. Through our subsidiary, North Country Broadband, high speed Internet has become a reality to un-served communities in the North Country,” stated Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance, Chairman of the Mohawk Networks Board of Managers. “We commend Senator Gillibrand and Senator Capito’s B-CROP legislation. The Tribe is confident this proposed legislation will impact the entire region by increasing access to grant funding for broadband deployment in unserved and under-served rural areas.” 

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.