FCC reverses block on $20B broadband fund in NY

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Ajit Pai

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai speaks during an event in Washington in 2019. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (NEWS10) — The FCC reversed a decision to shut New York state out of a $20.4 billion rural broadband-funding program. In letters from FCC chair Ajit Pai to New York legislators, he said they would restore New York’s eligibility to receive funding.

“I am pleased to inform you,” Pai says in a letter to Albany’s Rep. Paul Tonko, “that the areas in New York eligible for Phase I of the program will be determined by the same neutral principles applicable to other states.”

According to Tonko, while Pai promises to remove specific language targeting the state, the funding criteria may still exclude much of Upstate New York.

“The new policy is still extremely concerning for New York,” says Tonko. “I also remain concerned that the maps and data being used to allocate the funds are incomplete and further disadvantage New Yorkers.”

Over 10 years, the program pays internet service providers to expand their networks into new homes and businesses. It should give broadband access to as many as 4 million rural buildings nationwide.

The FCC initially blocked New York and Alaska from Phase I—which distributes $16 billion of the total—because in those states, programs that fund rural broadband already exist.

“New York shouldn’t be penalized for helping its rural communities get online, and this proposal will only make it harder for rural residents to do just that,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand earlier this month.

Along with Gillibrand and Tonko, Rep. Elise Stefanik, Rep. Antonio R. Delgado, and Sen. Chuck Schumer led this month’s bipartisan efforts to dispute the FCC’s position.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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