Fonda, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today visited Fonda-Fultonville Elementary School for a press conference to announce the Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act (B-CROP Act). This bipartisan bill, introduced by Senator Gillibrand and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), would make grant funding available for rural broadband projects in high-need areas to be awarded in combination with the current loan funding available through USDA’s Rural Utilities Service. In the Mohawk Valley, many residents who live in rural areas still lack access to high-speed broadband internet. Nationally, over a third of rural Americans and 41 percent of tribal residents lack access to broadband.
“There is no doubt anymore that students in today’s world must have access to high-speed internet in order to get ahead, but there are still too many families in the Fulton-Montgomery region that lack access to this essential technology,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act would bring much-needed federal funding to rural communities that want to install broadband internet but don’t have the resources to do it on their own. I am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation in the Senate, and I urge all New Yorkers to join me in raising their voices about the importance of broadband internet in our rural communities.”
“The Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act is a smart investment for the future of our communities that brings good-paying jobs and helps our local businesses grow and thrive,” said New York State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara. “I thank Senator Gillibrand for her advocacy and leadership in crafting this much-needed legislation that helps make affordable high-speed internet a reality for more families and businesses, especially in rural areas like ours. With the state’s commitment through the New NY Broadband Program, working together with the Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act, I’m confident that we can expand this critical piece of 21st century infrastructure, create new economic opportunities, better educational outcomes and improve quality of life for residents.”
“The establishment of broadband services in our school district’s rural areas is critical,” said Matt Sullivan, Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Board of Education President. “Fonda-Fultonville has made it a priority to integrate technology into our classrooms to make sure our students will be successful in college and career. Eleven percent of our students can’t get the internet at home because of limited broadband services, so we provide them with opportunities outside of the regular school day by opening computer labs after school. We’re also exploring the possibility of school-owned hot spots, and testing the cost and technical feasibility of wifi on school buses. These initiatives, however, offer less benefits compared to dedicated broadband at students’ homes, and require resources that could be used for the district’s academic program.”
The B-CROP Act proposes policies to target federal funds to rural and tribal areas in the highest of need to connect all Americans, regardless of where they live, work, or retire, to the technology necessary to succeed in the 21st century. Without access to high-quality, affordable broadband service, workers have fewer opportunities for good-paying jobs, farmers and business owners are isolated from new markets, children are limited in their educational opportunities and health care providers do not have reliable access to the most advanced technology available to help patients
A copy of the legislation can be found here.
Specifically, the B-CROP Act does the following:
· Allows for 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 the current loan funding available through USDA’s Rural Utilities Service.
· Helps enhance the economic feasibility of projects serving rural and tribal areas.
· Gives highest priority to projects in areas that are currently unserved by high-speed broadband.
· Coordinates with the FCC’s Universal Service High-Cost Support programs to complement those federal investments, responsibly spending taxpayer money.
· Increases the authorized funding for RUS’s Broadband programs to $50 million per fiscal year.
· Provides adequate resources to private sector providers, including corporations, LLCs, cooperatives or mutual organizations, state or local governments, and Indian tribes or tribal organizations, to expand broadband access to unserved rural areas.
· Gives partnership projects special attention, including initiatives that leverage matching funds and that work with anchor institutions like health centers, libraries, colleges, universities, and other educational entities.