Delgado Applauds FCC Reversal on NY State’s Eligibility for $16 Billion Broadband Program; Braces for Subsequent Rule Changes

January 30, 2020
Press Release

After Delgado Push, FCC Reversed Decision Blocking NY From Rural Broadband Funding

 

Delgado Closely Following FCC Treatment of State-Subsidized Regions

 

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) released the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) vote to reverse an initial proposal that would have made all of New York State ineligible for billions in federal broadband dollars through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction. The reversal follows a January 17 letter led by Rep. Delgado – and signed by 22 bipartisan New York delegation members – calling on the FCC to apply the same eligibility standards to New York as with other states. Last week, the Congressman had a call with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to further discuss the agency’s decision. Rep. Delgado sent a follow-up letter this week. At issue is the FCC’s inclusion of a footnote that would have excluded all of New York State from participating in the program’s Phase I auction, leaving tens of thousands of homes without consistent, high-speed broadband service. The footnote was eliminated before the FCC’s final vote this morning. Along with this change, the FCC revised its eligibility requirements, raising concerns that it could jeopardize the program’s reach in regions that have received state support and yet still lack adequate broadband access.

“I am pleased that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reversed its decision to categorically exclude all of New York State from its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction. At $20.4 billion dollars, RDOF represents the primary source of all federal broadband funding for the next decade and nearly 80% will be spent during the program’s Phase I auction. The FCC’s initial plan to block New York’s Phase I participation was unjustified and unprecedented and I was proud to lead a bipartisan group of 22 of my New York colleagues in demanding a reversal. Today’s result is an important victory for our State, but it is just the first step of many needed to ensure upstate communities aren’t once again left on the wrong side of the digital divide. Of paramount importance will be the FCC’s treatment of regions that lack qualifying broadband service despite having received some degree of state support. I will continue to work closely with my partners in Congress, New York State and the FCC to secure favorable outcomes for these high-cost, high-need upstate communities,” said Delgado.

As representative of the third most rural Democratic-held district, and the eighth most rural district overall, Rep. Delgado has worked to make increasing access to rural broadband a priority in Congress. As a member of the Rural Broadband Task Force, the Congressman has championed a number of measures to move away from census-block mapping that overcounts rural communities, and successfully amended appropriations legislation to prohibit the sole use of census-block data. The Congressman also held a Field Hearing on Rural Broadband at Columbia-Greene Community College where FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks heard from New York’s 19th Congressional District residents about the urgent need for broadband internet access for students, medical professionals, rural communities, co-ops and more.

Following this hearing, Rep. Delgado introduced a legislative package comprised of two bills that empower communities to improve flawed broadband mapping procedures. The first, the Broadband Speed Act, would require internet service providers to annually report data to the FCC that shows the actual speeds they are capable of providing, as opposed to their advertised speeds. This will help demonstrate to the FCC where broadband service is actually matching the speeds being advertised, and where there are still gaps in service. It would also require that new FCC funding awards be built out at speeds of 100 mbps or higher to ensure that they are built to last. The second bill, the Community Broadband Mapping Act, would allow local governments, electric/telephone cooperatives, economic development/community groups and small internet providers to access USDA Rural Utility Service broadband programs for grant funding to make their own broadband maps to challenge FCC data.