Friend Calling for Fed and State Government to Invest in Broadband Expansion for Its Critical Role in Daily Life Due to Coronavirus

May 11, 2020

Assemblyman Christopher S. Friend (R,C,I-Big Flats) wrote letters with his Assembly Minority colleagues to the president, New York’s congressional delegation, the governor and other state leaders urging them to prioritize broadband expansion as part of the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. They are asking the federal government to release promised funds for broadband expansion and for further investment, while additionally tasking the state to be ready to identify areas of New York which are underserved by high-speed internet.

“For years, I have been urging the state to expand broadband in the Southern Tier, and the federal and state government can no longer delay in its promise to residents. In recent months we have seen how critical access to high-speed internet is to work from home, distance learning for our children, accessing telehealth, keeping informed and staying connected to our communities and loved ones,” said Friend. “The money has been promised to our state from the federal government and more should be committed as part of our recovery as the pandemic’s hardest hit state. Our state government must be ready to enhance infrastructure where residents are underserved. Let’s make sure New York is ready to grow.”

The letter to the president and federal officials requested that a significant portion of CARES Act funding designated for broadband expansion be given to New York state because of its disproportional impact from COVID-19:

  • $25 million for distance learning, telemedicine, and broadband programs to expand these services to patients and students in New York;
  • $100 million in grants from the Rural Utilities Service Broadband Deployment Pilot Program;
  • $200 million from the FCC Connected Care Pilot Program to support telehealth;
  • $45 million to expand FEMA information technology and communications capabilities; and
  • $9 million for CISA supply chain for impacted critical infrastructure coordination.

Additionally, they are asking for the $170 million in awarded funds from the FCC in 2017 be released to New York by the end of the year. Only $55.4 million has been issued.

Friend also recommends that the state prioritize expanding broadband infrastructure by:

  • Ensuring critical workers have access to broadband;
  • Use the regional reopening process to identify students who are underserved by high-speed internet, and reach out to businesses to assess their access to broadband to use this information to map out broadband coverage throughout the state to be reported to the Legislature and public;
  • Establish a hotline for residents of the state to report their lack of access to internet services;
  • Fair allocation of funding to expand infrastructure, especially in rural regions of New York; and
  • Wave regulatory barriers to expand infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic to expire one year after the emergency period has ended.

Copies of the Federal and State letters are attached.