U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer has announced that the Federal Communications Commission has agreed to release over $485 million in available funds for enhanced broadband integration across the country, including Chautauqua County.
In January, Schumer called on the FCC to release this funding, which was being held up due to strict regulations and overly-stringent rules requiring the total cost of installing broadband in a home to be less than $775.
"(This) is a great first step in bringing more upstate New York businesses and homes online," Schumer said in a press release. "We had the federal investment and now companies have the flexibility to use it to expand access to the 'dark' corners of our state. 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."
With funds freed up, Internet service providers, such as Windstream (which services Chautauqua County), will have more money to subsidize the expansion of broadband and high-speed Internet to households in upstate New York that cost more than $775 to wire, such as those in rural areas and businesses where it was previously too expensive to wire. It is expected that funds will also be used to improve broadband for underserved households, not just to expand broadband to areas that previously did not have it.
The $485 million funds were part of the larger Connect America Fund (CAF), an initiative by the FCC 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.
"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," Schumer said.