State helps fund rural high-speed Internet

Long Lake, Schroon Lake, Bellmont and Lyon Mountain in the North Country are among nine places in New York that have won grants to expand broadband Internet services.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that Empire State Development has approved more than $14.5 million in state broadband grants to support nine projects that will expand access to broadband services for nearly 30,000 residents and more than 2,000 businesses across upstate New York. This includes the first broadband grants to be approved from Cuomo’s $25 million Connect NY broadband grant program and the Regional Economic Development Council awards, which when completed will represent significant progress in expanding broadband services to the more than 500,000 unserved or underserved New Yorkers across the state.

“Access to high-speed Internet is a critical resource for businesses and residents in today’s global economy,” Cuomo said in a press release. “These grants will connect underserved and rural communities to the many benefits of broadband access, including giving local businesses the opportunity to reach consumers from around the world. As the state works to grow the upstate economy, these nine projects will provide the support necessary to attract and retain businesses and help create jobs for the region.”

The state is committed to accelerating the availability, affordability and utilization of broadband technologies in order to grow New York’s economy. Officials hope that access to the numerous benefits of broadband access, such as e-commerce, e-government, telemedicine and distance learning will result in job creation, improved healthcare, greater educational opportunities for students and teachers, and enhanced economic development.

The following nine projects are receiving grants, listed in order of dollar amount:

-Open Access Fiber Network (Yates County) – $2,407,049

-Clarity Connect Inc. – Tompkins and Cayuga Ubiquitous Last Mile Coverage (various counties) – $2,216,000

-Slic Network Solutions Inc. – Schroon Lake Next Generation Broadband (Essex County) – $2,162,656

-New Visions Communications – Parish Broadband (Oswego County) – $1,999,584

-MTC Cable – MTC Broadband Build Out (Various Counties) – $1,800,000

-Slic Network Solutions, Inc. – Long Lake Next Generation Broadband (Hamilton County) – $1,370,306

-Slic Network Solutions, Inc. – Bellmont North Next Generation Broadband (Franklin County) – $1,012,366

-Slic Network Solutions, Inc. – Lyon Mountain Broadband (Clinton County) – $976,426

-Southern Tier West Development Foundation – Southern Tier Broadband (Various Counties) – $672,452

Most of the grant funding will be for the “last mile” of broadband service, which means the projects will provide high-speed Internet connections directly to New Yorkers. The last mile is the most expensive portion of a broadband network and often prevents many rural residents from receiving broadband service, even when service is available to nearby homes.

The $25 million Connect NY awards, combined with additional funding through the Regional Economic Development Councils to advance broadband technologies and services – including an additional $11 million through Round III of the REDC awards – brings the total amount of funding awarded for broadband projects during Cuomo’s administration to more than $68 million. The commitments made by the Cuomo administration through Connect NY and the REDCs represent the largest direct investment of state funding into expanding broadband access in the United States.

With more than 500,000 New Yorkers unable to access broadband, and another 6 million citizens facing significant obstacles to Internet connectivity, expanding high-speed Internet was identified by the REDCs as a key priority to stimulate local business growth. Broadband Internet grants, such as Connect NY, are intended to both spur investment by service providers in communities and help boost economic development in each region by expanding the ability of local businesses to reach consumers globally.