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Cuomo pledges $103M for North Country broadband

February 9, 2018
By GLYNIS HART - For the News ( , Lake Placid News

PLATTSBURGH - Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Phase 3 of the state's plan to complete broadband coverage in the North Country, pledging to make New York the first state in the United States to have 100 percent high-speed internet access for the entire state.

The state is pledging $103.5 million to be spent in public-private partnerships that will extend broadband to the "last mile" - the most remote homes in the North Country.

Speaking at Plattsburgh's Clinton County Community College on Wednesday, Jan. 31, Cuomo said the broadband buildout project began eight years ago.

"Now I'll tell you the truth, when they first asked me this, my wise guy response was going to be, I need a small nose - there's nothing I can do about that, either," he said.

"Internet access is not really a function of the state. It's a private market function. You have internet companies and they run internet where they can make money. So they run internet in densely populated areas. They do cities, they do suburban communities, because with one mile of line, they get enough customers to make money. To go to rural parts of the state - it's just not economic. So they didn't go."

Cuomo said that upstate had lagged behind downstate in economic development and that there needed to be a cultural shift. Early in his first term, a North Country resident told him, "We get treated better by Canada than by Albany."

Broadband became a critical piece of economic development plans for the North Country.

"Today you need high speed internet if you're going to compete," he said.

The Broadband Now program's goal is to bring internet with the capacity to download data at 100 megabytes per second. While some areas have coverage at 25 mbps, Cuomo said, "We have a very aggressive goal."

"The federal government is saying it wants to reduce the requirement to 10 mbps," he said.

"When we started this program just a few years ago, 20 percent of the North Country had [broadband] access. Round one it went to 80 percent. Round two went to 86 percent. Now with round three: 100 percent internet access in the North Country."

Companies that will receive assistance from the state to achieve complete high-speed internet coverage in the North Country are: Verizon, Frontier, Slic Network Solutions, Hughes Network Systems, TDS Telecom and Mohawk Networks LLC.

Asked if the state will work with Microsoft, which is including New York in its 12 by 12 program to use whitespace - unused UHF and VHF television frequencies - to cover the last mile in rural areas, Cuomo said, "We are talking with Microsoft."

However, he said, there's a temptation to delay action until newer technology makes the buildout easier, and he's not going to do that.

Asked for a time frame to complete the broadband buildout, he said, "About a year."

State Sen. Betty Little followed Cuomo's speech with a few remarks.

"Broadband is essential for health, for safety and for the economy," said Little.

"Governor Cuomo has brought more money to the North Country than we have ever received," she said.


Trailer park gets help

Before his scheduled appearance at CCC, the governor toured Underwood Estates, a mobile home park in Plattsburgh that was devastated by flooding the third week of January. An ice jam on the Saranac River flooded the park and forced all the residents to evacuate.

Noting that the mobile home park housed 70 families, Cuomo said, "They fall between the bureaucratic boxes, if you will. These are mobile homes, so they're ineligible for aid [from most state and federal disaster relief]."

"By hook or by crook we're gonna get these families the help they need," he said. The Underwood Estates residents will receive three months' rent, assistance in replacing their homes up to $100,000, and the berm barrier repair will be expedited. State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, who was also on hand, promised to expedite the permitting process.

"The thing about public service is, you can really help people," said Cuomo. "It makes all the baloney worth it."



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