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Broadband, health care top Delgado’s agenda

March 26, 2019 05:11 pm

U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, has been making the rounds, holding town hall meetings in each of the district’s 11 counties, and Tuesday morning held a conference call with local journalists to discuss the issues he is dealing with in Washington.

Delgado opened by addressing the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into the 2016 presidential election. The summary of the report was released Friday and did not find evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Delgado called for more information to be released.

“At this point, as we all know, we have a four-page summary that states some of the findings, without much detail beyond that,” Delgado said. “From my vantage point, we need to make sure we have the full report.”

The investigation led to indictments, convictions and sentences, and the full findings of the report should be released, Delgado said.

“The American public has made it clear that release of the full report is imperative, and Congress has unanimously made the same point,” he added.

But Delgado said other issues need to be addressed in the 19th District beyond the Mueller investigation, such as health care, infrastructure, broadband access, economic development and water contamination.

For the past week Delgado has visited several sites in the 19th District, including hospitals. He said there is legislation on the table in Washington that aims to stabilize the Affordable Care Act, which is marking its ninth anniversary.

“When it comes to the cost of premiums and deductibles, when it comes to rural access issues, there is no more urgent need, particularly when we are thinking about NY-19,” Delgado said.

He responded to the president’s calls to strike down the Affordable Care Act in full.

“I don’t understand or comprehend why the administration thinks this would be an appropriate approach when people are literally clamoring for the better health care services. Despite the fact that we are the wealthiest country in the world, we have poor health care outcomes. In Sullivan County, Columbia County, Greene County, I have heard personal stories about the impact of this crisis,” he said. “We have every right to be concerned about the aggressive and reckless approach the administration has taken.”

During his in-district visits over the past week, one of Delgado’s focuses was on health care and, specifically, telehealth, which enables health care providers to care for patients remotely, from off-site. Telehealth will depend on maintaining high-speed broadband access, which was another area of concern for rural communities in the Twin Counties.

“The state of New York has invested about $500 million to achieve rural broadband across the state,” Delgado said, but added, “a lot of work still has to be done.”

Jeffrey Hunt, president and CEO of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, agreed broadband is critical to local business and economic development.

“Broadband is very important — it’s as important as having water and sewer, or roads and highways,” Hunt said. “Most businesses conduct business on the internet in some way. We are trying to close the gap in upstate New York.”

Two primary issues with regard to broadband access stand out, Delgado said. One is speed and the other is how access is mapped out and determined.

“Right now, the way it is being mapped out is based on census data, which doesn’t really capture rural communities,” Delgado said. “If there is one home that has access at a speed of 25 megabytes, by census data that is a sufficient basis that the entire region is covered. That is just wrong.”

Delgado called for a more detailed, street-level mapping of broadband, where it is accessible and at what speed.

“It is critically important that we do this work, not just because of business opportunities and having access to the marketplace, but it implicates rural medicine and it implicates how we educate our young people,” Delgado said, adding that students who don’t have broadband access at home are at a disadvantage.