The Empire State is leading the charge among state governments preparing to use federal infrastructure dollars to expand broadband internet access. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul made waves on this front last month when she announced ConnectALL, a $1 billion initiative to transform the state’s digital infrastructure.
Funded through a combination of public and private investments, ConnectALL is designed to deliver affordable, reliable broadband to millions of New Yorkers in both rural and urban areas statewide.
ConnectALL Highlights the Need for Broadband Access
The coronavirus pandemic exposed the literal and figurative disconnect for schools, workplaces and homes with limited or no broadband access. For many New Yorkers, broadband has been unreliable or inaccessible, with low-income and marginalized communities feeling the effects harder than most.
ConnectALL seeks to close the gap and increase access for every resident by empowering municipalities and state agencies to implement broadband infrastructure statewide.
“The pandemic has shown us how access to reliable broadband is an essential lifeline to keep New Yorkers connected to loved ones and professional opportunities,”
Hochul said in a statement.
“Internet connectivity for all New Yorkers, including low-income families, helps New Yorkers start a business, find a job, access healthcare and communicate with loved ones. It is imperative we ensure there is high-speed, reliable broadband for all New Yorkers.”
How New York’s ConnectALL Plan Works
Among the key components of the ConnectALL initiative is an assessment program to create the state’s first in-depth and interactive broadband map. The assessment will provide the state with a detailed view of the availability and reliability of statewide broadband infrastructure. Transforming that view into an interactive tool will allow New Yorkers to see what services they can access in their area. It also will make it easier for the state to target investments in broadband connectivity.
Additionally, three grant programs will be established to provide communities with funding for broadband infrastructure planning, engineering and construction:
The Local Connectivity Planning and 21st-Century Municipal Infrastructure grant program will provide funding to municipalities and nonprofits and support public infrastructure.
The Rural Broadband grant program provides matching grants and funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). This grant program will help provide broadband access in rural communities, including last-mile connections and middle-mile projects.
The Connectivity Innovation grant program will provide competitive grants across the state to help fund and support innovation.
ConnectALL also seeks to make permanent a $30 monthly broadband subsidy for low-income households through the IIJA. The state’s Department of Public Service will conduct a statewide marketing campaign to boost enrollment in the federal subsidy program. Today, under 30 percent of eligible households in New York take advantage of the program.
To ensure equitable access through ConnectALL, the state will develop an equity plan with local communities as well as private and nonprofit stakeholders. It also aims to retrofit all affordable housing projects with broadband installation.