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New York to Provide High-Speed Broadband to All Citizens by End of 2018

A $500 million broadband program coupled with a merger between Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications aims to deliver access to high-speed Internet across the state.

On Jan. 8, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Hochul made two sizable announcements about high-speed broadband in the state: a merger between Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications that requires getting service to underserved populations, and the launch of a $500 million broadband program to provide high-speed Internet to every New Yorker by the end of 2018.

The state has begun the first phase of this program — the “New NY Broadband Program,” a public-private partnership that incentivizes “last-mile” broadband connectivity in remote areas -- and has released an RFP for vendors that can offer speeds of at least 100 Mbps in cities and 25 Mbps in more obscure areas, Hochul said. The state, which will partner with vendors by providing a 50 percent match for installation costs, expects to set a March 1 deadline with final selection by April 15. 

As for the merger, state officials said the approval of the deal by New York’s Public Service Commission ensured more than $1 billion in direct investments and citizen benefits, such as doubling broadband speeds for the typical consumer from 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps by 2018, and increasing connection speeds to 300 Mbps by the end of 2019.

The deal also dictates that the communications providers must offer high-speed broadband to 145,000 customers — who’d previously gone without access — and to implement a new low-income broadband plan. The plan would allow 700,000 low-income households to have Internet speeds of at least 30 Mbps at $14.99 per month -- something Audrey Zibelman, chair of the Public Service Commission, called “a game-changer in the telecommunications arena.”

Her comments were echoed by governor’s office.

“Access to high-speed Internet in New York shouldn’t be limited by your zip code,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications will result in a historic investment in New York’s internet landscape that improves quality, reliability, speed and affordability for all New Yorkers.”

At a press conference, Hochul said both measures will assist regions of the state that had long been overlooked. The connectivity, she added, would likewise be an educational support, a path for new employment and a catalyst driving business growth.

“What is missing for so many parts of this state and so many parts of this country is high speed access to broadband,” Hochul said. “There is an entire part of this state that deserves the attention and resources that have been neglected for decades.”

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.