Delgado Leads 22 Members in Bipartisan Effort to Make New York Eligible for $16 Billion in Broadband Grants

January 17, 2020
Press Release
Following the FCC’s decision to make New York State ineligible for billions in broadband grant funding, Rep. Delgado leads bipartisan delegation response

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) led a bipartisan group of his New York delegation colleagues in a letter expressing deep disappointment in the Federal Communications Commission’s recent announcement that New York State is ineligible for Phase I Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) awards. This decision, which will be voted on by the full FCC on January 30th, would make New York State broadband providers completely ineligible for $16 billion in funding to improve broadband internet in unserved communities. The member’s letter demands this decision be reversed.

Their letter begins, “As members of New York State’s Congressional delegation, we are deeply disappointed by your recent decision to make all of New York State ineligible for Phase I Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) awards. Phase I funding represents that vast majority all RDOF funds, or $16 billion out of the program’s total $20.4 billion, to support the deployment of high-speed broadband to areas lacking access to service from a fixed provider at the FCC’s minimum speeds of 25/3 Megabits per second (Mbps). This funding is designated to build broadband infrastructure in census blocks not currently served with internet speeds meeting the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) standards, and this decision will no doubt increase the digital divide, hinder economic growth and opportunity, and stall quality of life improvements for residents in our state, particularly those living in rural communities.”

The letter goes on to articulate how many rural communities in upstate New York lack broadband at minimum required speeds and ask for a response prior to the full Commission vote at the end of the month. The members continue,there are still areas of New York State meeting the FCC’s stated eligibility requirement for RDOF insofar as they lack access to broadband from a fixed provider at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps.  We urgently request that these communities be considered eligible areas for the purposes of Phase 1. It is our understanding that Phase II is not set to begin for several years, making it even more important that 100% unserved blocks in New York State are made eligible for Phase I funding. RDOF was established to bring communities across the country into the modern technological age, and you have described the program as the ‘boldest step yet’ to bridge the digital divide. As such, we cannot overstress the importance of New York State’s inclusion in the Commission’s auction. We ask that you reply before the Commission proceeds with a vote on the RDOF rollout on January 30, 2020. We look forward to your prompt and detailed response.”

The letter was signed by Reps. Paul D. Tonko, Grace Meng, Eliot L. Engel, Sean Patrick Maloney, Brian Higgins, Adriano Espaillat, John Katko, Thomas R. Suozzi, Joseph Morelle, Max Rose, Anthony Brindisi, Nita Lowey, Elise Stefanik, Kathleen Rice, José E. Serrano, Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez, Gregory Meeks, Yvette D. Clarke, Peter King, and Carolyn B. Maloney.


The complete letter can be found here and below.

January 17, 2020

 

The Honorable Ajit Pai

Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street, SW

Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Pai,

As members of New York State’s Congressional delegation, we are deeply disappointed by your recent decision to make all of New York State ineligible for Phase I Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) awards. Phase I funding represents that vast majority all RDOF funds, or $16 billion out of the program’s total $20.4 billion, to support the deployment of high-speed broadband to areas lacking access to service from a fixed provider at the FCC’s minimum speeds of 25/3 Megabits per second (Mbps). This funding is designated to build broadband infrastructure in census blocks not currently served with internet speeds meeting the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) standards, and this decision will no doubt increase the digital divide, hinder economic growth and opportunity, and stall quality of life improvements for residents in our state, particularly those living in rural communities. 

In 2015, Verizon Wireless declined $170 million in Connect America Fund (CAF) dollars for broadband build out across New York State. Rather than reauctioning this funding, the FCC allowed New York State to disperse the $170 million as part of the State’s existing Broadband Initiative. State officials were never informed that disbursing CAF funding in this way would have any impact on future RDOF funding eligibility. New York State is committed to furthering the development of broadband infrastructure and used the CAF funding to accomplish the FCC’s goal of expanding service in unserved areas. That the State was able to efficiently deploy funding after it was turned away by a private company should have no impact on service providers’ eligibility to participate in the current RDOF auction.

Although the State has made progress toward achieving universal broadband access, there are still areas of New York State meeting the FCC’s stated eligibility requirement for RDOF insofar as they lack access to broadband from a fixed provider at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps.  We urgently request that these communities be considered eligible areas for the purposes of Phase 1. It is our understanding that Phase II is not set to begin for several years, making it even more important that 100% unserved blocks in New York State are made eligible for Phase I funding.

RDOF was established to bring communities across the country into the modern technological age, and you have described the program as the “boldest step yet” to bridge the digital divide. As such, we cannot overstress the importance of New York State’s inclusion in the Commission’s auction. We ask that you reply before the Commission proceeds with a vote on the RDOF rollout on January 30, 2020. We look forward to your prompt and detailed response.

Sincerely,