New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced an aggressive broadband initiative Thursday calling for public and private resources to come together in a $1 billion plan to give every state resident access to broadband Internet by 2019.
That $1 billion will not come solely from the state, however. According to a release from the governor’s office, the state will create the $500 million “New NY Broadband Program” with capital funds from bank settlements, and it will encourage private sector organizations to match the state’s contribution.
The plan was unveiled as part of Cuomo’s 2015 State of Opportunity agenda. Cuomo called the funding for broadband, a priority in the administration’s second term agenda, “a broad undertaking” and said it will improve the lives of New Yorkers across the state.
“Access to high-speed internet is critical to ensuring that all New Yorkers can reach their full potential in today’s technology-driven world,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We’re launching the largest state broadband investment in the nation in order to make that goal a reality.”
The release from the governor’s office identifies the plan as the largest and boldest state investment in universal broadband deployment in the country. The announcement comes days after President Barack Obama announced his administration’s support for municipal broadband initiatives.
According to the release, 1 million New York residents and 4,000 of its businesses cannot get access to broadband under the state’s previously established minimum 6 Mbps download and 1.5 Mbps upload speeds that are already seen as too slow on a national scale. In addition, more than 5.4 million residents and 55,000 businesses cannot get access to broadband at 25 Mbps and more than 2,000 of the state’s public schools report speeds lower than 100 Mbps.
Some say those numbers hamper the state’s economic development. Cuomo said broadband is responsible for 20 percent of new jobs across all businesses and 30 percent of new jobs in businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
The Cuomo administration expects the plan to deliver on “unprecedented broadband speed,” requiring broadband providers to provide Internet speeds of at least 100 Mbps. Funding priority, according to the release, will be given to those delivering the highest speeds at the lowest cost for the consumer.
But that doesn’t mean that all broadband across New York will be at least 100 Mbps, or 10 times the nationally recognized definition of broadband. The release said in certain cases providers may offer speeds of up to 25 Mbps. Those speeds, however, will only be applicable “to the most remote unserved and underserved areas” and must scale up to 100 Mbps or more when compared to more populated areas. In addition, the slower speed is only allowable “if this provides the best means of achieving universal broadband access to the region.”
The program will build on two others addressing Internet connectivity across the state. The Cuomo administration has already awarded more than $70 million to expand high-speed Internet access in rural upstate and underserved urban areas through the Connect NY Broadband Grant Program and additional economic development funds.
The second is the Smart Schools Bond Act, which passed this past November and provides $2 billion to school districts to upgrade technology in the classroom, including broadband networks.