SCHUMER: AS LIVINGSTON COUNTY CONTINUES TO RECOVER FROM COVID-19 AND CHILDREN GET READY TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL, OVER 40% OF LIVINGSTON COUNTY STILL DOES NOT HAVE SUFFICIENT- OR ANY- ACCESS TO BROADBAND; IN LIVINGSTON ON FRIDAY, SENATOR CALLED FOR USDA TO IMMEDIATELY APPROVE $14.4 MILLION IN GRANT FUNDING TO ADDRESS THE COUNTY’S INTERNET ACCESS NEEDS
The COVID-19 Access 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, Broadband Access Has Never Been More Vital
Senator Fought For Additional $100M In CARES Act To Fund These Grant Programs & To Provide Broadband Access For Rural Communities; Says Funding Should Be Put To Use In Communities That Need It Most
Schumer To USDA: It’s Time To Close The Gaping Digital Divide In Livingston County
In a meeting with Livingston County Officials on Friday, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer discussed his push to secure $14.4 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program, which would expand access to broadband in Livingston County. Schumer explained that the $14.4 million grant would cover most of the expenses of a $17 million project that would initially provide broadband access for nearly 25% of Livingston County’s addresses. Once the project is finished, there are plans for subsequent buildout phases to provide internet for the rest of the 41% of Livingston County address that do not have sufficient 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. I’ll continue fighting tooth and nail to secure funding that brings our rural economies Upstate into the 21st century.”
Specifically, Schumer said, Livingston County and local telecom provider Empire Access formed a public-private partnership to bring broadband to 5,500 households, farms, and businesses in Livingston County that are currently under-served or are un-served. The senator revealed that Empire Access will install 400 miles of fiber optic lines over 3 years to provide 1 Gigabit-level service. 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 own and operate the infrastructure.
Schumer has provided strong support for rural broadband access in Upstate New York in the past year. The senator voted for the FY19 Appropriations bill which created the USDA ReConnect Program and helped Yates County secure a $10.3 million grant last year to cover 3,000+ households and businesses in the area. Additionally, in March of this year, Schumer prioritized additional funding for rural broadband and provided an extra $100 million for the USDA ReConnect Program in the CARES Act.
Senator Schumer’s letter to USDA Secretary Perdue appears below:
Dear Secretary Perdue:
I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by the public-private partnership in Livingston County, Light Up Livingston to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect Program.
The Light Up Livingston application includes over 400 miles of all fiber optic network bringing fiber into Livingston County’s most rural and underserved areas which, upon completion, will serve over 5,500 households, farms and businesses with 1 Gigabit-level internet service.
Livingston County has made substantial effort to assess and analyze the current internet landscape including service offerings, speeds, and provision of service. The completed technical reports indicate that there are substantial gaps in service which could be reduced through ReConnect funding. A community-wide survey of residents, businesses, and farm operators reinforces the quantitative data collected on the need for highspeed, reliable internet access for economic success in Livingston County.
High-speed broadband internet will result in immediate and long-term economic benefit to Livingston County. I applaud Livingston County for its foresight, and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.
Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my Grants Coordinator in my Washington, DC office at 202-224-6542.