AS COVID CASES RISE AGAIN IN UPSTATE NEW YORK, SCHUMER REVEALS SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF LIVINGSTON COUNTY STILL DOES NOT HAVE SUFFICIENT ACCESS TO BROADBAND; SENATOR, IN FIRST MEETING WITH PRESIDENT-ELECT BIDEN’S USDA NOMINEE, RENEWS FIGHT TO GET $11 MILLION IN USDA GRANT FUNDING TO ADDRESS THE COUNTY’S INTERNET ACCESS NEEDS
COVID-19 Has Revealed Serious Disparities In Rural Communities Throughout Upstate New York, Especially Exacerbating The Digital Divide; As Livingston County Communities Are Encouraged To Stay At Home Amidst A Resurgence In Cases, Broadband Access Has Never Been More Vital
Senator Fought For Additional $7B In Recent COVID Relief Package To Fund Federal Broadband Programs & Is Pushing to Ensure Broadband Access For Rural Communities Is Among Top Priorities For Incoming Administration
Schumer To USDA Nominee: Time To Dial Up The Funding & Close The Digital Divide In Livingston County
After a personal visit to Livingston County last August to discuss with local officials the need for more federal funding to expand broadband access, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer last week, in a virtual meeting with President-Elect Biden’s nominee for U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, urged the nominee to prioritize universal access to affordable broadband, starting with approval of Livingston’s request for $11 million from the USDA’s Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program.
The senator explained that the $11 million grant would cover most of the expenses of a $15 million project that will initially provide broadband to 305 miles of Livingston County. Once the project is finished, there are plans for subsequent buildout phases to provide internet for the rest of Livingston County living without access.
“The current public health crisis is making it all too clear that the digital gap in communities across Upstate New York is far too wide,” said Senator Schumer. “Livingston County families, businesses, farms, and communities need and deserve top-notch high-speed broadband to help them stay connected during these difficult times and to be competitive as the economy eventually recovers. As incoming Senate Majority Leader, I promise to continue fighting tooth and nail to secure funding that brings 21st century telecommunications technology to our rural economies across Upstate.”
Livingston County and local telecom provider Empire Access, formed a public-private partnership to build out the new infrastructure to bring robust broadband to now under-served and un-served households. Empire Access, which is a 100-year-old family-owned telecom provider based in Prattsburgh, NY with customers in the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, and Northern Pennsylvania, will still own and operate the infrastructure.
Schumer has provided strong support for rural broadband access in Upstate New York in the past and throughout the COVID pandemic. Just last month, he helped to secure $7 billion in emergency benefits for broadband service to provide free or low-cost service to low-income families who have been recently laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic. In August, Schumer met with leaders from Livingston County and Empire access in the Town of York to announce his push to secure this grant funding and the letter he sent to USDA Secretary Purdue in support of the Livingston County application. Additionally, in March of last year, Schumer prioritized additional funding for rural broadband during negotiations for the CARES Act and provided an extra $100 million for the USDA ReConnect Program, which he voted to create in the FY19 Appropriations bill.