NY aims to boost high-speed, affordable broadband

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As many as 100,000 affordable housing units across New York will gain access to broadband infrastructure under a new state initiative. Applications for the $100 million Affordable Housing Connectivity Program opened in early December. 

In Monroe County, roughly 7 percent of households do not have a computer and 12 percent lack a broadband internet subscription, U.S. Census data shows.

A competitive grant program designed to fund high-speed, reliable broadband infrastructure to and in low-income housing buildings, the Affordable Housing Connectivity Program is funded through the U.S Treasury Department’s Capital Projects Fund under the American Rescue Plan Act. New York’s investment in affordable housing connectivity is the largest in the nation, state officials say.

“With work, school, and essential government services going digital, affordable homes need affordable, reliable broadband, and this funding will help bolster our efforts to build housing equipped with the basic tools that New Yorkers need to succeed,” says Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Internet service providers can apply for federal funds for retrofits to provide high-speed internet infrastructure in affordable housing rental units.

The effort lines up with Hochul’s move to ease the housing crisis. The fiscal year 2023 budget includes a five-year, $25 billion plan to build and preserve 100,000 affordable homes.

The connectivity program is a partnership led by Empire State Development’s ConnectALL Office in consultation with New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The $1.3 billion ConnectALL initiative aims to close the state’s digital divide, providing residents with reliable and affordable high-speed internet service. Over the past year, the ConnectALL Office has conducted listening sessions, surveys, and focus groups in every region of the state and convened industry and stakeholder forums to design its signature grant programs, officials say.

ConnectALL has secured more than $664 million in federal funds to address unserved and underserved rural areas, in addition to the $100 million available for the Affordable Housing Connectivity Program. 

In November, Empire State Development’s ConnectALL office shared drafts of the state’s broadband equity and its digital equity plans. These documents are expected to help guide future investments in the broadband realm. The ConnectALL office is currently seeking public comment on the plans. 

Meanwhile, ConnectALL continues to work with state agencies and community partners to promote the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, officials say. More than 1.6 million New York households have signed up for the monthly subsidy of $30, which translates to nearly $50 million in total monthly broadband savings for those households.

Now, ConnectALL will pair eligible properties with the best proposals from internet service providers to complete installation through the Affordable Housing Connectivity Program. To be considered for no-cost broadband upgrades, developers need to complete a survey

Sen. Charles Schumer, credited for securing ARP funds, says it brings New York one step closer to bridging the digital divide.

“The internet is not a luxury, it is essential infrastructure, and this funding will help New Yorkers connect to new opportunities, education, health care and so much more right in their homes,” Schumer says. “Together with Gov. Hochul, we are taking bold strides to transform our state’s digital landscape, and boosting equitable internet accessibility to help New Yorkers thrive in today’s 21st century economy.”

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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