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Schumer, Gillibrand say FCC treating NY unfairly with broadband funding

Posted 10 March 2020 at 4:40 pm

Press Release, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today denounced the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to move forward with the recently adopted Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Order that would exclude states that have been awarded funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect program or other state-run broadband development or subsidy programs from being eligible for the RDOF.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Pai, the senators call for transparency over the new order and ask specific questions that remain unanswered. According to the senators, the order as adopted would penalize states like New York that have implemented their own broadband programs and further exacerbate the digital divide felt in rural communities.

The FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will allocate $20.4 billion to connect millions of rural homes and small businesses to high-speed, broadband internet. However, the Senators explained, under the newly adopted Order from the FCC, that many unserved rural New Yorkers would be excluded from this vital pool of federal funding, stripping these communities of resources that could have a positive impact on educational, economic and health outcomes.

“In the modern economy, access to reliable, fast internet service is crucial to any Upstate New York community’s success,” said Senator Schumer. “This decision by the FCC sets a dangerous and counterproductive precedent that discourages states from investing in rural communities. The federal government should not be punishing New York, or any other state, for taking initiative, especially not for securing broadband access for rural communities that need and deserve top-notch high-speed internet. That’s why I’m calling on the FCC to reconsider their unwise decision and to provide clarification for why they’ve decided to undermine state broadband efforts.”

Senators Schumer and Gillibrand were joined by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Edward Markey (D-MA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“This order could be devastating to rural New Yorkers and rural communities around the country, and I’m disappointed that the FCC has chosen to exclude certain unserved communities from potentially accessing crucial broadband funding to improve internet services,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I’m deeply concerned that the FCC is penalizing states that have taken action to help rural communities get online. I demand clarity of the RDOF Order’s eligibility requirements and urge the FCC to reconsider so that all communities have the opportunity to access this critical funding to improve broadband services.”

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