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After Schumer Visited In March 2021 To Push For Revolutionary System, Sullivan Receives Critical Award To Bring Fast & Affordable Internet To Underserved Communities

Schumer Says An Estimated Over 4,000 Sullivan County Households Lack Sufficient Access To High-Speed Internet; But Now With New Award Plus Historic Investments From ARP And Infrastructure Law Sullivan Will Boost Access To 65% Of Underserved Residents And Businesses

Schumer: Closing The Digital Divide Will Fully Connect Sullivan County To The 21st Century Economy

Following his personal visit and direct advocacy to boost affordable, reliable high-speed internet access in Sullivan County, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that the Sullivan County Division of Public Works has been awarded a $1.7 million grant through the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) American Rescue Plan (ARP) Economic Adjustment Assistance program. Schumer said that this funding will go towards the County’s efforts to develop a much-needed countywide, county-owned wireless broadband network to greatly expand high-speed internet access for Sullivan County residents and business owners.

Specifically, Schumer said that this $1.7 million EDA investment will allow the Sullivan Broadband Local Development Corporation (LDC) to outfit the county’s public safety broadcast towers with equipment to transmit a wireless broadband signal to provide roughly 65 percent of Sullivan County with access to broadband. As the critically needed backbone of a much larger project, Schumer further explained that this work builds on the LDC’s ongoing projects at three sites in Liberty and Monticello and its ultimate goal of expanding coverage beyond these locations to underserved areas to reach full county-wide coverage in the years to come. The EDA grant will be matched with $415,063 in local funds and is expected to generate $4.5 million in private investment.

“In March of 2021, I visited Sullivan County and stood alongside local officials, educators, and business owners to launch our fight to finally give our rural Sullivan County communities the access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet that they deserve. After months of working with our EDA representative, the county government, and our Hudson Valley Regional Council to address the digital divide, I am proud to announce this $1.7 million federal investment to dial up our fight to bring Sullivan County businesses and residents into the 21st century,” said Senator Schumer. “This funding will go towards developing a countywide, county-owned, wireless broadband network, which means new good-paying jobs, a boost to our businesses, better healthcare, and further narrowing the ‘homework gap.’ Alongside the historic funding I secured for local governments and broadband infrastructure in the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Sullivan County will now be able to plug its residents and business owners into the future.”

“After years of working with Senator Schumer and the Hudson Valley Regional Council, we are thrilled that Sullivan County has been awarded $1.7 million to expand broadband access across Sullivan County. This funding will go towards installing the necessary equipment to provide internet access to roughly 65 percent of our residents and is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to making sure our residents have access to reliable, high-speed internet. We thank Senator Schumer for visiting Sullivan County, listening to us, and getting it done," said Joshua Potosek, Sullivan County Manager. 

“Our goal at the Sullivan Broadband Local Development Corporation is to give every Sullivan County resident and business owner access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet. Life and commerce in the 21st century requires it, and this EDA funding will go a long way in helping our county achieve that goal. From the very beginning, Senator Schumer supported us in this fight and we thank him, along with Pat Pomeroy at the Hudson Valley Regional Council for their ongoing support of defeating the digital divide here in Sullivan County through this critical project,” said Sullivan Broadband Local Development Corporation Chairman, Michael Brooks.

“Hudson Valley Regional Council was honored to provide technical support to this project. The real winners here are the residents of Sullivan County and the team of professionals on staff that worked hard to put this together. One thing the Pandemic showed us was the importance of Broadband in remote working, providing remote educational opportunities and assisting business in accessing the digital economy. Thanks to Sen Schumer and all our elected representatives for providing funding for projects like this throughout the US,” said Patricia Pomeroy, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Regional Council.

Schumer said that, in late 2020, by unanimous vote of the Sullivan County legislature, the Sullivan Broadband Local Development Corporation (LDC) was created with the goal of providing wireless broadband service to all Sullivan County residents and businesses. To make this plan reality, Sullivan County officials first sought the help of Senator Schumer in December of 2020 as the county set out to outfit the county’s public safety broadcast towers with equipment to transmit a wireless broadband signal and build out a network of secondary towers to expand service in underserved areas. Schumer was quick to support these efforts, explaining that the pandemic put a spotlight on the lack of sufficient internet access faced by many businesses, school districts and households in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. According to the FCC and NYS Comptroller 2021 broadband report, 14.3% of households, over 4,000 homes, are without sufficient broadband access.

Working to defeat the digital divide, in late March of 2021, Senator Schumer made a personal visit to Sullivan County to meet with local officials, educators, business owners, and other stakeholders regarding Sullivan County’s lack of access to high-speed internet. During this visit, Schumer pushed for the EDA project announced today, stressing the importance of access to high-speed internet for the residents and businesses in rural Sullivan County. Over the past several months, Schumer has worked with Sullivan County, EDA representatives, and the Hudson Valley Regional Council on this project, leading to the $1.7 million investment announced today.

This project is funded through a $500 million set aside in EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance program that Senator Schumer secured as a part of the American Rescue Plan to accelerate economic recovery from the pandemic and help communities like Sullivan County put people back to work through projects designed to strengthen the local economy and make the region more competitive for good-paying jobs and new business investment.

Senator Schumer has been a longtime supporter and advocate for Sullivan County’s broadband expansion. A copy of one of his original letters of support for the project to the Department of Commerce appears below:

Dear Secretary Ross:

I am pleased to write in strong support of the application submitted by Sullivan County, New York, to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for its FY2020 EDA Public Works and Economic Assistance Programs including CARES Act Funding. Rural Sullivan County is home to over 77,000 people and, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 3.7% of residents have no access to high-speed mobile or fixed internet, while a significantly more residents only have access to very inadequate internet connections. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacting Sullivan County residents and businesses, the need for reliable high-speed internet has never been greater as access to employment, education, and healthcare services now hinge on reliable internet access. The county seeks $2,000,000 in EDA investment to tackle the digital divide by installing nine county-owned communications towers and protective enclosures required to house equipment.

Sullivan County is located in New York's Hudson Valley, which was one of the nation’s first hotspots for COVID-19, where residents and businesses alike continue to suffer from the devastating health and economic impacts of this pandemic. Just this past week, New York State Department of Health data showed the 7-day average of positive cases in the Hudson Valley tripling from 2.1% to 6.3% over the past two months. As this second wave of COVID-19 rears its ugly head, Sullivan County residents and businesses should not have to worry about staying connected to work, school, healthcare, family, and friends because they lack access to reliable high-speed internet. Unfortunately, this has been the case for over 44,500 residents and 1,200 more businesses in the County currently combatting this digital divide due to a lack of adequate broadband infrastructure. As Sullivan County continues to experience an unprecedented 6.7% unemployment rate, these residents and businesses cannot continue to be left behind in our increasingly digital world, and we must invest in broadband infrastructure.

Fortunately, Sullivan County has developed a plan to address these unmet communications needs by developing a countrywide, county-owned, wireless broadband network. This network is operated and managed by a newly established nonprofit created by the County, the Broadband Local Development Corporation (LDC). The LDC will utilize existing or under-constructed emergency communications towers to reduce costs and maximize efficiency. Importantly, the LDC has already started its critical work by launching a pilot program in the Village of Monticello where, to date, one tower is complete, while two more are under construction. However, the next phase of the project includes mounting communications equipment on ten additional emergency communications towers to increase county-wide reach, and the county is requesting a $2,000,000 investment from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to continue its important work. This funding will be used to buy and install the equipment needed to upgrade nine of these ten existing county-owned towers. This initial phase of the LDC’s wireless broadband network would be game-changing, setting out to improve rural broadband service for 62.6% of the county's residential population and 58.83% of its existing businesses.

This pandemic has made it clearer than ever before that access to reliable, high-speed internet is a necessity for those who live and work in rural Sullivan County. As the businesses and residents there look to offset the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19, a strong broadband network is key to attracting and retaining regional businesses that are the backbone of these communities and in keeping residents connected to work, school, and critical healthcare services. For these reasons, and many more, I strongly support Sullivan County’s application for $2,000,000 in EDA investment to build the infrastructure needed for a county-wide wireless broadband network to help address unmet communications needs and defeat the digital divide.

Thank you for your consideration.