Rep. Delgado Pens Follow Up Letter to FCC Chairman Urging Broadband Funding For New York Communities

January 28, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) penned a second letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai following a phone conversation the two had last week. At issue is an FCC decision to make New York ineligible for $16 billion in broadband funding through the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). In addition to his phone call with Chairman Pai, Rep. Delgado led a bipartisan letter of 22 New York delegation members calling on the FCC to reverse its decision. In his follow-up letter sent today, Rep. Delgado challenges the Chairman’s justification for this exclusion and again urges reversal of its decision before the final commission vote on January 30, 2020.

The letter begins, “As I expressed on the phone, I am deeply disappointed by the inclusion of Footnote 27 in the FCC’s draft order, as the exclusion of New York will undoubtedly increase the digital divide and unfairly punish communities that meet RDOF’s minimum eligibility standards.” The Congressman later explains that the FCC’s inclusion of this footnote will leave tens of thousands of homes without consistent, high-speed broadband service and articulates why the Chairman’s stated concerns will continue to leave rural communities underserved.

The Congressman’s letter concludes, “There is no reason these communities and any others that may meet the FCC’s stated eligibility criteria should be blocked from Phase I of RDOF, which constitutes $16 billion of the program’s $20.4 billion in funding. I cannot overstate the impact this decision would have on our state – I constantly hear from small businesses, family farmers, healthcare providers, schools, and countless others in my district about the urgent need for broadband service upstate. Thank you for your attention to this matter and I ask that you reply before the Commission proceeds with a vote on the RDOF rollout on January 30, 2020. I look forward to your prompt and detailed response.”

A full copy of the letter can be found here and below.

January 28, 2020

 

The Honorable Ajit Pai

Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street, SW

Washington, DC 20554

 

Dear Chairman Pai,

Thank you for taking my call on Friday, January 24th, to discuss the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) draft proposal for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which as currently written, excludes all New York State broadband providers from participating in Phase I of the program. As I expressed on the phone, I am deeply disappointed by the inclusion of Footnote 27 in the FCC’s draft order, as the exclusion of New York will undoubtedly increase the digital divide and unfairly punish communities that meet RDOF’s minimum eligibility standards.

On our call, you offered two justifications for this decision. First, you stated concerns with doubling up on federal broadband investments in regions that previously received funding through Phase II of the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF) auction. Second, you stated that New York has failed to demonstrate that it has any unserved communities that would qualify for RDOF Phase I funding. Below are responses to both of your stated concerns.

As you know, CAF II funding was awarded to 103 bidders in 45 different states. As part of that process, New York was permitted to deploy $170 million in CAF II funds as part of its own state-run broadband initiative. To avoid doubling up on federal investment in regions that previously received CAF II support, the FCC is making those regions ineligible for RDOF’s Phase I funding. Rather than applying this same standard to New York, the FCC has decided to make the entire state ineligible to even apply for RDOF Phase I funds. There are areas of New York that did not receive federal support through CAF II and that meet the eligibility standards for RDOF. Furthermore, there are service providers in New York that, with RDOF support, could address these areas which currently lack qualifying service.

Regarding your second point, it is my understanding that New York State has been in frequent contact with your office regarding this decision by the FCC. The State adamantly contends that the FCC never conditioned its partnership with New York for re-allocation of the declined Verizon CAF II funds on the state’s abdication of future federal funding opportunities. Furthermore, it is my understanding that the State has already identified – and provided the FCC with data for – more than 56,000 New York households that meet RDOF’s eligibility standards and have not previously received any federal support through CAF II. There is no reason these communities and any others that may meet the FCC’s stated eligibility criteria should be blocked from Phase I of RDOF, which constitutes $16 billion of the program’s $20.4 billion in funding.

I cannot overstate the impact this decision would have on our state – I constantly hear from small businesses, family farmers, healthcare providers, schools, and countless others in my district about the urgent need for broadband service upstate. Thank you for your attention to this matter and I ask that you reply before the Commission proceeds with a vote on the RDOF rollout on January 30, 2020. I look forward to your prompt and detailed response.

Sincerely,

Antonio Delgado

Member of Congress