President Obama isn't the only major US public official seeking to make an impact in the broadband sphere with new incentive programs these days.
New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo, often mentioned as a leading Democratic candidate for the White House in 2016 and beyond, is looking to make his own splash with a $500 million matching program for broadband providers that agree to invest their own funds and meet certain speed and other conditions. Announced Friday, the "New NY Broadband Program" is being billed as "the largest and boldest state investment in universal broadband deployment in the country."
Under the new program, New York State is offering a one-to-one match of public funds to broadband providers if they agree to expand high-speed access in unserved and underserved areas of the Empire State, raising the total potential investment to at least $1 billion. Providers must also agree to offer top downstream speeds of at least 100 Mbit/s, or, in certain limited cases, at least 25 Mbit/s in the most remote unserved and underserved areas of the nation's fourth-largest state. The program also establishes 25 Mbit/s as the new minimum broadband speed for the state, similar to a move that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now weighing at the national level. (See Redefining Broadband Could Vex Carriers.)
The stated goal of the matching grant program is "ensure every New Yorker has access to high-speed Internet by 2019." In the press package announcing the program, the Cuomo administration cites stats indicating that 1 million New Yorkers and 4,000 businesses now lack broadband access at even the state's previous minimum speed standards of 6 Mbit/s downstream and 1.5 Mbit/s upstream. Further, the administration notes, 5.4 million New Yorkers and 55,000 companies can't get access to broadband at 25 Mbit/s downstream, and 7 million New Yorkers and 113,000 firms lack access to speeds of 100 Mbit/s or more.
"Broadband has never been more critical to New York's future," the announcement says. "Broadband is responsible for 20% of new jobs across all businesses, and 30% of new jobs in businesses with fewer than 20 employees."
The program calls for Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) to submit "comprehensive plans" to the state that identify unserved and underserved areas, aggregate demand across residential, commercial and institutional sectors, spell out the most cost-effective means to provide universal service and leverage state-owned assets whenever possible. The Cuomo administration said it will also explore ways to streamline public permitting and processes and foster broadband builds, including tapping into the more than 500 miles of fiber that runs along the New York State Thruway.
Notably, Cuomo unveiled New York's new program just two days after Obama announced a series of federal broadband aid programs and other initiatives, including a controversial call for federal preemption of state bans on municipal broadband networks. Cuomo's move also came just four days before Obama plans to emphasize his broadband agenda, including stronger net neutrality rules, in Tuesday night's State of the Union address to the nation. Naturally, we'll be covering that as well. (See Obama Rocks Broadband World Again .)
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading