Faso Submits Local Input on $600 Million

Broadband Expansion Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman John Faso (R-Kinderhook) submitted comments based on input from local broadband stakeholders regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) e-Connectivity Pilot Program, which will issue funds for broadband expansion in unserved and underserved communities.  The submission comes after Congressman Faso hosted a planning meeting on August 29, 2018 with local telecom leaders.

Among the issues addressed, Congressman Faso urged that RUS’s implementation of the program does not disadvantage New York State’s rural communities.  Specifically, the comments recommended higher broadband speeds, improved mapping of coverage, and stringent standards for applicants to ensure effective broadband expansion and prevent fraud.

“As I travel throughout Upstate, I have met with local leaders and residents who live in areas that still lack access to broadband and all the benefits that today’s internet can provide.” said Congressman Faso. “The comments I submitted are based on the expertise and experience of local telecom providers that are working on these issues every day and understand how a program such as the e-Connectivity Pilot can be effective. Expanding access to broadband in our rural communities opens up opportunities for families and businesses, and I want to ensure that New York is able to fairly compete for these federal funds.”

“Congressman Faso’s comments to the Rural Utilities Service about their e-Connectivity Pilot Program will help rural residents, businesses, and institutions get fair access to federal funds, which are desperately needed to expand high speed broadband to all communities within the 19th Congressional District.  I appreciate the efforts of Congressman Faso to reach out to stakeholders within his district to learn how the Rural Utilities Service can structure the e-Connectivity Pilot Program to best serve our communities,” said Mark Schneider, CEO and General Manager of Delaware County Electric Cooperative.

 “We applaud Congressman Faso’s resolve to secure additional funding in support of broadband expansion into the rural, unserved, regions of Upstate New York. Congressman Faso’s comment to the Rural Utilities Service regarding the e-Connectivity Pilot Program clearly identifies the deficiencies in previous federally-funded broadband programs and offers practical solutions to insure the maximum benefit to the region going forward. The availability of broadband services plays a critical role in the economic health, vibrancy, and overall sustainment of our rural communities,” said Glen Faulkner, General Manager of Margaretville Telephone Company.

“Otsego Electric Cooperative appreciates Congressman Faso sending comments to the Rural Utilities Service about making its broadband grant and loan program funds accessible in order to benefit our members and residents of our area and ultimately to obtain fairly priced high speed broadband. This service is essential for our residents to effectively participate in educational, telemedicine, e-commerce, telework, and entertainment opportunities in this digital age,” said Tim Johnson, CEO of Otsego Electric Cooperative, Inc.

Background

The 2018 Federal Budget, which Congressman Faso voted to support, included $600 million to create the RUS Broadband e-Connectivity Pilot Program.  RUS posted a Notice of Inquiry and request for comments on the program.

Excerpt from the letter:

To ensure the comments contained in this letter are most salient, I held a meeting on August 29, 2018 comprised of small broadband providers, who have a proven record of expanding broadband services in rural communities in my district*. The below comments incorporate their views and input. It should be noted that several of these stakeholders attempted to use past RUS broadband programs without success. In addition, these same stakeholders have used New York State programs with significant success. RUS should learn from past mistakes and be willing to examine successful state level grant programs to ensure federal taxpayer money is spent effectively and efficiently.

 Furthermore, RUS must develop a plan that does not penalize residents in states like New York that have already created state-funded programs to expand broadband to rural communities. There are still numerous areas in rural New York that do not have sufficient broadband access, but these areas will likely be the most difficult to access. Other states may be able to expand services in a cheaper way because they have not invested state taxpayer funds for broadband expansion. These states should not benefit at the expense of New Yorkers simply because the remaining expansion in New York is likely to be the most remote – and often most expensive – rural communities.

 The full comments can be found here.