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Funding Approved to Assist Expansion of Access to Broadband Service

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Funding Approved to Assist Expansion of Access to Broadband Service

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Legislature authorized appropriation of up to $15,000 in contingency funding to help address gaps in broadband Internet coverage in the Town of Caroline—areas initially planned for inclusion in the county plan to improve broadband access for unserved and underserved areas of the county through the Legislature’s Special Committee on Broadband, but that were subsequently unable to be covered due to the level of funding received in the Connect NY Broadband grant allocation received to support the project. 

The cost to extend broadband access to nearly all residents in those difficult-to-reach areas of Caroline is estimated at $218,000, and the Town has raised public, private, and grant funding commitments for $156,000 to date.  The Town had requested $8,000 in County support to help fill that gap, but Legislator Pam Mackesey advocated increasing that amount to up to $15,000, maintaining that is consistent with the County’s goal of providing access to broadband to all residents of Tompkins County.  The amendment was supported by a margin of 11-4; then the appropriation at the higher funding level supported by a vote of 13-2, Legislators Brian Robison and Jim Dennis dissenting.  Both praised and recognized the Town’s actions and commitment, but said the Legislature should at this point approve the amount the Town was asking for. 

Budget chair Dennis and several other legislators said they would be interested in considering future fund requests to address other similar service gaps, such as in the southern portion of the Town of Enfield; Legislator Robison also noted a gap in his district, in the Groton City area.  Several legislators likened the broadband access issue to a moral obligation—to ensure that all households in the county have high-speed Internet access, in line with the goals of the Legislature’s Broadband Committee.  Broadband Committee Chair Pat Pryor said, “In reality, what we are doing is to find a way to complete a county-initiated project,” and finishing the work the Legislature started four years ago—a project some legislators noted had initially been projected might require as much as $4 million in county funding to implement.