New York’s counties are applauding new State Budget provisions and investments designed to support the expansion of broadband and high-speed Internet access.
The enacted budget includes new legislation, the Working to Implement Reliable and Equitable Deployment of Broadband Act (WIRED Broadband Act), that establishes a new Division of Broadband Access that will deploy a series of ConnectALL grant programs. Total investment for broadband initiatives is $1.445 billion, including $300 million for the ConnectALL grant program, and another $1.145 billion in federal funds.
NYSAC President Marte Sauerbrey said “The past two years of remote work, school, and meetings revealed the many pockets of the state that still don’t have quality Internet access. We thank State Leaders for their renewed focus and commitment to support counties working on broadband projects designed to better connect their communities to the Internet.”
The WIRED Broadband Act implements the following grant programs.
ConnectALL Municipal Assistance Program—to provide local governments with funding for broadband infrastructure projects that provide reliable internet service speeds of at least 100mbps for download and 20mbps for upload.
ConnectALL Innovation Grant Program—to develop, pilot, and promote innovative models and technologies for the delivery of new broadband solutions for rural and low-income areas, and foster collaboration between research and business sectors.
ConnectALL Digital Equity Grant Program—to promote equitable access to broadband for all New Yorkers and support effective implementation of the State Digital Equity Plan.
The budget also repeals the DOT Right-of-Way fee for all projects, which was a top priority for NYSAC and county leaders across the state. These ROW fees added considerable one-time and annual costs to many broadband projects, which reduced the return on investment from these projects.
“Madison County is in the process of building out a 269-mile fiber-optic network with 36 miles of NYS right-of-way with several crossings. We thank Governor Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature for repealing these right-of-way fees, which will not only save significant money for our project but also other projects throughout the state. Without these fees, rural broadband projects are more sustainable and will help us all connect the members of our communities who are in the greatest need,” said Madison County Administrator Mark Scimone.
“We appreciate the efforts of state lawmakers working with NYSAC staff in advocating on behalf of counties for the repeal of these unnecessary fees and costs on broadband projects,” commented County Administrator Ian Coyle. “Livingston County has joined with Empire Access on a USDA ReConnect Grant which will expand broadband infrastructure to over 1,000 unserved and underserved addresses in our county. Removal of this burdensome tax will save County taxpayers approximately $50,000 per year.”
“The lack of consistent quality high-speed Internet access has plagued Adirondack communities. We appreciate these state budget investments, especially as we continue to find innovative ways to make sure our residents, businesses, and tourists can be connected when they need to be,” said Patty Waldron, chairwoman of the Intercounty Legislative Committee of the Adirondacks and a Clinton County Legislator.
“Several state lawmakers, especially Assemblymember Carrie Woerner and Senator Michelle Hinchey were instrumental in pushing this repeal in their chambers. Their work will help counties across the state connect more farms, businesses, and residents to critical Internet services,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario.
The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving all the counties of New York State, including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate, serve and advocate for member counties and the elected and appointed county officials who serve the public.