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New York Senators Question FCC Broadband Funding Allocation

U.S. Sens. Gillibrand and Schumer, both of New York, are asking questions about why their state was entirely shut out of $20 billion recently allocated by the FCC in support of nationwide broadband efforts.

by Larry Rulison, Times Union / March 11, 2020

(TNS) — The Federal Communications Commission is set to launch a $20 billion subsidy program to expand high-speed internet access to underserved areas of the country.

However, U.S. Sens. Charles Schummer and Kirsten Gillibrand want to know before all that money is handed out why New York state is being shut out of the funding pool because it already has its own state-run broadband expansion program.

“This decision by the FCC sets a dangerous and counterproductive precedent that discourages states from investing in rural communities," Schumer said in a statement issued Tuesday. "The federal government should not be punishing New York, or any other state, for taking initiative, especially not for securing broadband access for rural communities that need and deserve top-notch high-speed internet."

Schumer and Gillibrand, along with other U.S. senators, wrote the FCC on Monday demanding to know why New York and potentially dozens of other states won't qualify for the funding.

"We are concerned that your agency is penalizing states that have taken the initiative to create broadband programs to address the under-served communities across their own states," the letter, addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, states.

The FCC approved an order last month to go forward with the first phase of the program, which would include $16 billion of the $20 billion in funding. As part of the vote, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement that New York is one of as many as 30 states that could be shut out of potential funding.

"That's crazy and we have no idea how it will play on the ground," Rosenworcel said. She and commissioner  Geoffrey Starks both approved the order in part, while issuing dissenting remarks.

Schumer and Gillbrand are asking the FCC to provide a list of answers to questions they have about New York and other states, including how many states are potentially impacted by having their own broadband subsidy programs.

The FCC has previously explained that New York was excluded because it already has lined up $170 million through a previous FCC broadband subsidy program that is helping fund Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $500 million New NY Broadband Program.

New York state has already received $55.4 million and has been trying to ensure all New Yorkers have access to high speed internet, especially those in rural areas where cable TV companies won't expand due to the high costs of installing new cables in sparsely populated regions.

©2020 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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