The recent announcement that New York state will get nearly $665 million in federal funding to invest in improvements to broadband availability gives the state an opportunity to accelerate universal deployment of the highest-speed connections in every corner of the state, according to a new analysis released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“My office has been monitoring the state’s progress in making high-speed internet available to New Yorkers,” DiNapoli said. “Many parts of the state still lack the infrastructure to support high-speed broadband and this new federal funding will help remove that barrier. The pandemic exposed the struggles many families experienced when work, school, healthcare and commerce went online, and showed that reliable, high-speed internet is imperative for equality of opportunity. How New York utilizes this federal funding will set a critical path for our state’s digital future.”
DiNapoli’s 2021 broadband report showed New York ranked second in the nation with 98.7% of the population living in areas with broadband in 2019. However, data compiled by the Federal Communications Commission used a methodology that overstated coverage, particularly in rural areas. More granular data recently released by the Public Service Commission show some areas of the state remain unserved and underserved by broadband providers. In Hamilton County, just 70% of locations were served, compared to 99% in New York City. This is generally consistent with national trends as rural regions may not generate enough revenue for the private sector to justify building the infrastructure to support it, while still allowing for affordable subscriptions.
The new federal funds are intended to spur broadband deployment by prioritizing unserved and then underserved locations, as well as public locations like schools and libraries that allow for greater use of broadband service by vulnerable populations. States are also encouraged to develop non-infrastructure programs that address affordability, equity, and digital skills training needs.
In addition to the nearly $665 million in federal Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program funds announced in June 2023, initial federal COVID-19 relief helped provide New York with more than $880 million through pandemic-era programs. The federal government has allocated a total of $1.6 billion in broadband funding for New York.
In 2022, the state launched the ConnectALL Office, which will spearhead creation of the state’s five-year action plan and initial proposal.
DiNapoli said the state’s proposal for using the money should be actionable and accountable. DiNapoli recommended setting concrete goals for each objective; identifying obstacles and barriers faced to date; identifying federal, state, and local funding sources available; and establishing interim metrics and a public reporting schedule in order to allow accountability for progress.
Availability, Access and Affordability: Understanding Broadband Challenges in New York State
Economic and Policy Insights – Making Strides on Broadband Affordability
New NY Broadband Program