Digital technology is growing by leaps and bounds, so the announcement last week by the Federal Communications Commission that parts of New York state will be eligible for broadband funding is a reminder that innovation combined with objectives still has value.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-21, who has been working with a bipartisan team of local, state and federal elected officials including U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, to extend broadband’s reach in New York, saying the FCC would include areas of New York to be eligible for the first phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, a national initiative to correct the disparities in rural broadband.
The idea of closing the digital divide in rural New York is not a new one, and it has taken more time for development than it should have, but there is no arguing that even rural communities require access to speedy and affordable broadband to support economic growth, communication with other municipalities and a reason for new commerce to settle and thrive. Families, schools, hospitals and farms also require broadband in the 21st century. Its absence is unthinkable in today’s computer-linked world.
On Jan. 14, when the FCC named 48 states with locations deemed eligible to receive Phase I Rural Digital Opportunity Fund awards, elected representatives here were shocked to learn New York was omitted from the list that would make it eligible for $16 billion in funding.
The change of heart by the FCC to open New York state to broadband funding is a startling pivot, but it will have a great impact on one of the nation’s most innovative states. This is the kind of thinking that will deliver New York, particularly Columbia and Greene counties, from the dusty recesses of business-as-usual into the digital era.