NEW YORK STATE (WBEN) - $100 million dollars in federal funding is coming to New York State to "close the digital divide," by expanding broadband internet across the state to underserved areas.
In a world that continues to rely heavily on the use of internet, which was been called upon extra during the pandemic with people working and learning from home, New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are calling this an essential necessity and no longer a luxury.
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"Many old apartment buildings in New York do not have internet access. Many of them were built a long time ago. This funding is going to go to modernize those buildings and bring high speed internet, over 100,000 people in older buildings. This is how people go to work, go to school, get health care, how they stay connected with people they love. You need the internet for all of these," said Senator Schumer.
This funding, which was made possible through the American Rescue Plan, is the largest targeted investment in affordable housing connectivity in the nation.
"Rural broadband and closing the digital divide in cities has been something that certainly Senator Schumer and Governor Hochul have worked on, but something I've really tried to make a priority of for a long time, because those are the problems I hear the most about," said Senator Gillibrand.
"How hard it is for schools and small kids in school and people who own small businesses. Even on farms, being able to file all federal forms require high speed internet. It's really hard for parts of rural America that do not get the last mile covered because the companies don't think it's economic. So this money is huge. It's going to solve a lot of problems."
Governor Kathy Hochul mentions how the pandemic highlighted that internet access is an inequality issue.
"I went up and visited a minister in Harlem who told me his wife is a grade school teacher. He had a deal during the pandemic, where every day, he told the McDonald's manager if I bring all these little school kids into McDonald's and buy them breakfast, they can they connect with your internet, that's how desperate people got. That's how extreme the circumstances were for real New Yorkers. So I'm excited about this, this is going to make a huge difference in the lives of everyone from our urban areas."
The new federal investment comes from the $10 billion in the American Rescue Plan's Capital Projects Fund (CPF), a program designed to address the challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in rural America, Tribal communities, and low- and moderate-income communities. A key priority of the CPF is to make funding available to help ensure that all communities have access to high-quality modern infrastructure, including reliable, affordable high-speed broadband needed to access critical services.
You can hear the full announcement here: