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USDA Funding Will Connect 928 People, Local Farms And A Business In Cattaraugus, Erie And Chautauqua Counties To High-Speed Internet 

Senators Fought For Additional $100M In CARES Act To Fund Grants To Provide Broadband Access For Rural Communities 

Schumer, Gillibrand: USDA Funding Will Help Close The Gaping Digital Divide For Seneca Nation

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced a $544,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program for Seneca Telecommunications LLC to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network in the Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca Nation. The project, once completed, is estimated to provide high-speed broadband internet for 928 people, 5 farms, and one business in Cattaraugus, Erie, and Chautauqua counties.

“The current public health crisis is making it all too clear that the digital gap in communities across Upstate New York and in Indian Country is far too wide, a problem that has existed for far too long,” said Senator Schumer. “The Seneca Nation’s 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 and Tribal economies Upstate into the 21st century.”

“Far too many communities in rural New York don’t have access to necessary broadband services, widening the already pervasive digital divide,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This funding is great news for families, businesses, and farmers across Western New York that depend on fast internet now more than ever to work, learn, and stay connected with health care providers through telehealth services. This funding will also provide critical high-speed internet to the Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca Nation. I will continue fighting for the resources needed to keep New Yorkers connected as we acclimate to the new reality of day to day life during this unprecedented time.”

Schumer and Gillibrand have provided strong support for rural broadband access in Upstate New York in the past year. The senators voted for the FY19 Appropriations bill which created the USDA ReConnect Program and, in March of this year, the senators prioritized additional funding for rural broadband and provided an extra $100 million for the USDA ReConnect Program in the CARES Act.

In March, Schumer sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, requesting the approval of Seneca Telecommunications’ application for the funding announced today. Senator Gillibrand sent two successful letters of support to US. Department of Agriculture Secretary Perdue advocating for the Seneca Telecommunications, LLC to receive federal dollars from the first and second round of funding of the Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program. The Seneca Nation is the largest of six Native American nations, the fifth largest employer in Western New York, and has a population of over 8,000 enrolled members. This funding will provide critical resources to maintain the health, security, and economic development of the community.

Senator Schumer’s original letter to USDA Secretary Perdue, sent in March, appears below:

Dear Secretary Perdue:

I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by Seneca Telecommunications, LLC’s to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect Program.

The Seneca Nation is an underserved community with limited access to broadband in the area. Broadband access has been nonexistent, and in many cases financially inaccessible, for residents, small businesses, health care facilities, and emergency response programs at the Cattaraugus Territory. With funding support from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Broadband ReConnect Program, Seneca Telecommunications, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Seneca Nation, will bring significant quality of life improvements to the Seneca Nation by providing access to reliable, high-speed broadband service.

The Seneca Nation maintains the critical facilities that are of paramount importance to the health, security, quality of life, and economic development of the community. The Nation’s Marshals Office and Conservation Department, providing community safety and law enforcement; the Seneca Nation Health System, providing for the physical and behavioral health of Seneca members; the Emergency Management Department, responding to events that affect large numbers of community members and do extensive property damage; and the Education Department, providing educational services and programs from early childhood to adult education: all of these entities, and many others, function without benefit of access to broadband and high speed Internet. In addition, Seneca entrepreneurs who wish to launch business ventures at the Cattaraugus Territory are hindered by a lack of broadband service.

Implementation of broadband at the Seneca Nation’s Cattaraugus Territory by Seneca Telecommunications, LLC will enhance economic growth, as well as help to maintain a healthy, safe, and productive environment for Seneca citizens. I the Seneca Nation 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.