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Pandemic Has Revealed Serious Disparities Throughout Livingston County, Exacerbating The Digital Divide

Schumer Delivered $353M In American Rescue Plan To Fund NYS Broadband Programs & Pushed Administration To Make Broadband Access For Rural Communities A Top Priority 

Schumer: Closing Digital Divide Will Provide Crucial Access For Livingston County To Succeed In Today’s Economy 

Standing at Mulligan Farm in Avon, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced, following his repeated pushes, that $11.3 million in federal funding has been secured to bring new high-speed internet broadband access to thousands of homes, businesses, schools, and farms across Livingston County.

The funding, allocated through a grant awarded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program, will be used to install hundreds of miles of fiber-optic cable that will provide broadband internet access to thousands of Livingston County households, farms, businesses and schools. Empire Access, a family-owned telecom provider based in Prattsburgh, NY, will partner with Livingston County to build out the new infrastructure. Specifically the grant will enable the deployment of a fiber-to-the-premises network to reach an estimated up to 11,000 people including over 90 farms and dozens of businesses in Livingston County, New York. 

“The COVID pandemic made it all too clear that the digital gap in Livingston County is far too wide,” said Senator Schumer. “In today’s modern economy, access to reliable, fast internet service is crucial to success which is why I was proud to have pushed and advocated with USDA Secretary Vilsack to secure this grant. This USDA grant will ensure Livingston County families, businesses, farms, and students can access the top-notch, high-speed broadband they need. I am proud to have helped secure this federal funding, and I will always fight to bring 21st century telecommunications technology to underserved communities across Upstate.”

Today’s visit and federal funding comes after Schumer’s personal visit to Livingston to announce his push to secure these funds to provide for the county’s broadband needs in August of last year and after his push during his first meeting with then President-elect Biden’s USDA Nominee, Tom Vilsack, in January of this year to urge the nominee to prioritize Livingston County’s grant request. Schumer has provided strong support for broadband access in Upstate New York in the past and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, he helped pass the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), which provided $353 million to build broadband in unserved and underserved areas. Additionally, Schumer secured over $600 million to provide Wi-Fi-hotspots and connected devices to students and teachers in New York. The funding from the ARP is on top of the $7 billion Schumer has already secured to provide free or low cost broadband service to low-in comes families in past COVID relief bills.

“We thank Senator Schumer for supporting the public-private partnership between Livingston County and Empire Access for the USDA ReConnect Program,” said County Administrator Ian Coyle.  “The federal funding award is a definite game changer in our local efforts to effectively achieve greater access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet service throughout the County.”

Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, David LeFeber commented, “Expanding affordable, high-speed internet access is a key priority of the County Board of Supervisors. We thank Senator Schumer for his continued support to address this critical need. By expanding broadband service to areas which need it most, we improve the quality of life for residents and help ensure economic development opportunities for agriculture and businesses.”

“We thank Senator Schumer and his dedicated staff for supporting this important initiative,” said Jim Baase, Chief Operating Officer, Empire Access. “The USDA Rural Broadband ReConnect grant will provide the necessary funding to expand high-speed broadband access to rural, unserved regions of Livingston County.  Residents and businesses will now have access to state-of-the-art fiber optic Internet service.”

Schumer voted in 2018 to pass the Fiscal Year 19 Appropriations bill, which created the USDA ReConnect Program  In 2019 Schumer helped secure a $10.3 million grant for Yates County from ReConnect’s first grant round to construction broadband access to over 3000 households and businesses.  The Livingston County grant announced today is part of the second ReConnect grant round made possible by $550 million Schumer helped secure in the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bill. The Rural Development Broadband and ReConnect Program provides funding for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.