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FCC may shut New York out of broadband funding under proposed program

State senators aren’t very happy about it, but the FCC says their time will come

Photo (c) cienpies - Getty Images
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may shut New York state out of a planned $20.4 billion broadband-funding program, and the Empire State’s U.S. senators aren’t happy about it.

The reason for the supposed exclusion is that New York already has programs that it participates in that expand rural broadband access. However, state lawmakers say that those programs shouldn’t preclude consumers from benefiting from additional funding.

“The federal government should be investing—not divesting—in Upstate New York rural internet access. Just because New York participates in certain federal rural broadband expansion programs certainly doesn’t mean it should lose access to others. It makes absolutely no sense to punish New York for taking positive steps to address broadband access,” said Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). 

Why New York?

In making an argument for New York, Sen. Schumer says that the FCC should reverse its decision to exclude New York to support rural areas in the state. Schumer’s fellow U.S. Senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), also called out the FCC for leaving New York out in the cold. 

“The FCC’s justification for this is unacceptable. New York shouldn’t be penalized for helping its rural communities get online, and this proposal will only make it harder for rural residents to do just that,” she stated.

The FCC probably thinks Shumer and Gillibrand should cool their jets a bit and wait their turn. The agency estimates that 98 percent of New York state's residents -- 99.9 percent in urban New York and 87.1 percent in rural New York -- already have access to home broadband. Schumer and Gillibrand argue the number of New Yorkers lacking access to broadband is “close to 20 percent.” 

Bringing rural America up to speed -- or is it?

The FCC says the upsides of its proposed program are tremendous for consumers in rural areas, with heavily rural states like Texas and Arkansas being allocated hundreds of thousands of “bid eligible locations.”

Consumers would also get better internet service than they do now -- 25Mbps download speeds and 3Mbps upload speeds is the goal -- although pundits say that speed lacks ambition and still leaves the U.S. lagging behind Canada’s goal of 50 Mbps/10 Mbps and that the U.S. will still have to play catch-up.

Reflecting on a Pew Research study that a regular U.S. household has 5 devices and that 18 percent of households actually have 10+ devices, Community Network’s Hannah Trostle foretells a problem the FCC may not have taken into consideration. 

“Too many people get caught up in how much capacity a single device needs, but our households have many devices that are each vying for access,” Trostle posed. “The question is whether a connection can handle the peak demand, not average.

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