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Ortt has concerns for Orleans, Niagara residents after Charter expelled from NYS

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 August 2018 at 8:21 am

State Senator Rob Ortt (R-North Tonawanda) sent a letter on Tuesday to the NYS Public Service Commission, sharing concerns about the lack of funding in Orleans and Niagara counties for broadband expansion, and also asking the Commission to develop a plan for expanding high-speed Internet to the two counties.

Last week, the Public Service Commission deemed Charter Communications has failed in its agreed-upon build-out promises, leading to disputes between the telecoms company and the state.

“Many families who were depending on Charter to deliver broadband are now questioning whether or not they will be left in the dark with regard to high-speed Internet,” Ortt said in a statement. “I support the state’s desire to hold Charter accountable but I also worry about the underserved communities who are no closer to receiving the high-speed internet they were promised.”

The state’s Broadband Program Office was tasked with allocating previous funding, including $500 million from State Legislature and $170 million from FCC. But Ortt said there was a “wide disparity” in how funding spent in counties, with little of the dollars approved for Orleans and Niagara.

The average county received $35.3 million, but Orleans was only awarded $36,699 and Niagara, $197,820, Ortt wrote in a letter to John Rhodes, chairman for Public Service Commission

“Although this funding disparity is alarming, residents were assured that the disparity did not mean that they would be without broadband,” Ortt writes. “Since Charter’s merger required them to build to 145,000 addresses at no cost to the state, it seemed that my district would be receiving broadband without an investment from the BPO.”

But now with Charter expelled from the state, the company won’t be extending high-speed service to the additional addresses.

“While Charter has slacked in this process, the revocation creates large issues for my constituents and residents across New York State,” Ortt wrote to the Commission.

Ortt urged the Public Service Commission to develop plan if it follows through with the Charter revocation.

“Although I agree with the Commission’s sentiment that Charter’s pace has been unacceptably slow, I fear that, without proper planning, this penalty could end up harming the residents it was intended to protect,” Ortt wrote to the Commission.

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