Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has heeded his call and will relax overly-stringent rules so that New York telecommunications companies can access over $485 million in available funds aimed at deploying broadband across the country through the Connect America Fund (CAF). In January, Schumer stood with Orange County and Sullivan businesses and home owners and called on the Federal Communications Commission to release this funding, which was sitting unused because of strict regulations. Now, after Schumer's push, Frontier Communications and other companies can access it and expand broadband.
For example, Schumer highlighted that the FCC will unlock this funding to subsidize the expansion of broadband to households that cost more than $775 to wire, which was the previous threshold, meaning companies can now expand access to rural households and businesses where it was previously too expensive to wire. In addition, the FCC heeded Schumer's call to let these funds be used to improve broadband for underserved households, not just expanding access to new locations.
"Today is a great first step in bringing more New York businesses and homes online; we had the federal investment and now companies have the flexibility to use it to expand access to the "dark' corners of our state," said Senator Schumer. "I am pleased the Federal Communications Commission heeded my call to increase their flexibility to allow telecommunications companies in New York to access over $485 million in unused funding set aside for the deployment of broadband.
Schumer continued, "Reliable high-speed internet access is essential for any business or family to succeed in a global marketplace, our students and our home businesses rely on high-speed internet to learn and conduct their business. The expansion of broadband will be a shot in the arm for the New York economy, and help ensure New Yorkers are plugged-in to innovations in educational, economic, and cultural development."
In January, Schumer stood at the Orange County Business Accelerator, which is a partnership between Orange County Government and the Orange County Industrial Development Agency. This partnership is aimed at fostering prosperous new businesses in Orange County. The OCBA's purpose is to help businesses extend their reach far beyond the borders of Orange County and simultaneously grow Orange into the most business-friendly environment in the Hudson Valley. During his visit, Schumer had highlighted, for example, that this money should be permitted for use towards areas that are underserved, rather than those completely without service. Previously, CAF funding could only go towards brand new telecommunication facilities, but Schumer argued that the FCC definition should be expanded to include upgrades to broadband service in places like Sullivan and Orange County, not just new deployment. There are customers in these counties, for example, that technically have broadband access, but that service is completely inadequate.
Schumer noted that Frontier Communications, a Hudson Valley telecommunications company, accepted some funding in 2012, but was unable to invest it in the Hudson Valley region because of the restrictions in these federal rules. Frontier has stated that now, with the new flexibility in the rules, it can use this FCC funding anywhere in its footprint, including Orange and Sullivan Counties, to upgrade copper lines to provide broadband. The Commission has allocated the millions in unused funds for this exact purpose, and the increased FCC flexibility will give companies like Frontier and Windstream the opportunity to bring this massively beneficial service to New York businesses and homeowners.
The Connect America Fund (CAF) is part of a larger FCC initiative to make broadband an option for every American. Acknowledging that rural areas can have a particularly tough time gaining access to the internet, the FCC designed the program to provide underserved areas with the technological capability to compete. The CAF was allocated $600 million in its first phase, and there remains $485 million sitting unused. Schumer pushed to correct the major reason for this unused funding: the strict regulations related to which telecommunication companies can utilize the funding, such as the fact that the company must be able to provide broadband for less than $775 per household. Under the new regulations, the CAF funds can be used to subsidize companies who expand broadband to households which cost more than $775, so that the overall cost remains at the $775 threshold. Companies like Frontier Communications have made clear their interest in accessing this funding to upgrade their copper wires in New York State, and by making these sensible tweaks to FCC regulations, Frontier can now do just that.
Schumer applauded the FCC for their efforts to undertake a massive overhaul of outdated support program in order to facilitate broadband and for correcting their regulations to bring this funding in line with the FCC's initial goal. With the limitations removed, Frontier Communications, which has thousands of customers in the Hudson Valley, can utilize millions and intends to install broadband connections for homeowners, businesses, schools and health care providers across their service area, putting the region on the path to economic and cultural growth.