“We are here to talk today about hundreds of millions of dollars of federal support that could go to economic development in Sullivan and Orange counties,” Senator Charles Schumer said on Wednesday at the Orange County Business Accelerator in New Windsor. “But instead it’s collecting dust in DC coffers.”
Schumer, along with representatives from Orange and Sullivan and representatives of Frontier Communications and Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation called upon the federal government to loosen the criteria for access to $485 million in funding offered by the Connect American Fund to improve broadband in those two counties.
“There are large swaths of both counties that don’t have what most urban areas have at their fingertips, and that is access to reliable broadband Internet,” Schumer said.
Broadband is a great equalizer for rural school districts, he said. For local businesses, it is key. Not having broadband access today is like being without a road 50 years ago according to Schumer.
Frontier Communications wants to participate in the program but cannot meet the standard for ‘un-served’ or the $775 per household installation cap set by Connect America Fund.
Schumer is asking the FCC, which oversees the Connect American Fund, to change the standard to ‘underserved’ and to increase the dollar amount for installation.
The economic growth possibilities of both counties increase with better internet access.
“It is so important today and on the forefront. The broadbanding, the knowledge, the security, all of those things, that the extra money will certainly allow us to do,” Orange County Executive Edward Diana said.
Big companies wire places that are profitable but not rural or sparsely populated areas Schumer explained. “And that’s what we are trying to change.”