10.11.21

SCHUMER: NEARLY 20K HOMES & BUSINESSES LACK MODERN INTERNET ACCESS IN THE MOHAWK VALLEY; SENATOR SAYS BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE DEAL WOULD DELIVER HISTORIC FUNDING TO HELP CLOSE MOHAWK VALLEY’S DIGITAL DIVIDE

Schumer-Negotiated Infrastructure Deal Includes Record Funding To Bring Fast & Affordable Internet To Underserved Communities In Rural & Urban Parts Of Mohawk Valley

Schumer Says The Mohawk Valley Is Among The Least Connected Regions In the State, With Nearly 20K Homes & Lacking Access To High-Speed Internet

Schumer: Closing The Digital Divide Will Fully Connect Mohawk Valley To The 21st Century Economy 

After the Schumer-negotiated bipartisan infrastructure bill passed in the Senate, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today visited Herkimer County to announce that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021 includes a record $65 billion in funding to expand access to high-speed internet in underserved rural and urban communities across the nation, including here in the Mohawk Valley. Schumer said that nearly 20,000 homes and businesses – accounting for 3.8% of the population – lack modern internet access in the counties that make up the Mohawk Valley, according to a report from the New York State Comptroller. These statistics show that Mohawk Valley has the second highest percentage of its population without high-speed internet, behind only the North Country.

“Long before COVID-19, rural and urban communities throughout the Mohawk Valley have struggled to close the digital divide,” said Senator Schumer. “Access to reliable, fast internet service is crucial to success in today’s modern economy, which is why I fought to include a historic investment to expand high-speed internet access to underserved communities in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.”

Schumer also broke down the extent of the digital divide, county by county, citing a report from the New York State Comptroller:

COUNTY

POPULATION

POPULATION WITHOUT BROADBAND

PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION WITHOUT BROADBAND

PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION LIVING IN AN AREA CLASSIFIED AS RURAL

Fulton

53,383

1,815

3.4%

50.1%

Herkimer

61,319

3,924

6.4%

53.9%

Montgomery

49,221

1,034

2.1%

41.9

Otsego

59,493

4,938

8.3%

73.4%

Oneida

228,671

6,631

2.9%

33.8%

Schoharie

30,999

279

0.9%

8.3%

TOTAL

483,086

18,621

3.8%

47.2%

Schumer added “Communities in the Mohawk Valley will be able to immediately tap into this historic $65 million investment.”

Specifically, Schumer said the recently-passed Senate bipartisan infrastructure bill – the IIJA – includes the following broadband funding programs which Mohawk Valley communities can tap to further expand future broadband access:

  • $42.45 billion for Broadband Deployment Grants to States, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Territories
    • Provides funding to the states to close the digital-divide in high-cost, unserved and underserved communities.
  • $14.2 billion for Permanent Broadband Affordability
    • Provides funding to create the new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP begins when funding for the Emergency broadband Benefit is exhausted, ensuring that qualified households will be able to access affordable high-speed internet beyond the COVID-19 emergency period. The ACP expands affordability support by broadening eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level, adds coverage for WIC recipients, and strengthens the long-term availability of support for qualified households. The ACP protects consumer choice by guaranteeing that eligible households may use the benefit for ANY broadband service offering, preventing providers from restricting it to only certain service plans.
  • $2.75 billion for Digital Equity and Inclusion
    • Funding for states to provide digital literacy and digital skills education to low-income or senior populations, improving the online accessibility of social services for individuals with disabilities, or more accurately measuring broadband access and adoption in rural communities.
  • $2 billion for the USDA ReConnect Loan and Grant Program
    • Increases the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Loan and Grant Program and Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program to connect the most rural and hard-to-reach rural areas.
  • $2 billion for the Tribal Connectivity Fund
    • Additional funding for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, building on the program established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 that was passed in December 2020. This flexible funding will allow Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiians to meet their most urgent broadband needs, including deployment, affordability, and digital inclusion efforts.
  • $1 billion for Middle Mile Broadband infrastructure
    • Funding to assist efforts by small providers, non-profits, planning and development organizations, utilities, and others across the country to build out middle-mile infrastructure in order to drive down costs and ensure the infrastructure exists to build out to last-mile households
  • $600 million For broadband specific Private Activity Bonds
    •  The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorizes certain broadband projects as eligible activities for tax-exempt private activities bonds. Private activity bonds are bonds issued by state and local governments used to finance projects in partnership with the private sector.

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