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$50 million ConnectALL digital equity plan 'to close New York's digital divide'


Fri, Apr 5th 2024 03:35 pm

Gov. Kathy Hochul has unveiled the $50 million state digital equity plan to “close New York’s digital divide.”

Her team said, “The plan outlines New York’s statewide strategy to increase its capacity to improve digital literacy and digital job readiness skills, facilitate access to affordable internet and devices, enhance digital privacy and safety, and make government services more accessible through the internet.”

The announcement follows the plan’s approval from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, making New York eligible to apply for a $36.8 million federal Capacity Grant to implement the plan.

The plan is available for download here.

“With the launch of New York’s digital equity plan, we are bringing the state one step closer to closing the digital divide,” Hochul said. “Affordable, accessible broadband is essential for connecting New Yorkers to work, education, and vital government services, and I will continue to work closely with the Biden administration and New York’s congressional delegation to advance our ConnectALL initiative and ensure that New Yorkers can participate in our modern economy.”

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “This federal funding awarded to New York’s ConnectALL program will allow us to double the capacity of its digital equity ecosystem over the next 10 years by building on existing assets, strengthening partnerships, and connecting the most difficult locations in the state.”

Hochul’s team explained, “The plan establishes a vision and comprehensive framework to guide the state’s digital equity strategy and will anchor all of ConnectALL’s programs, including building digital skills and literacies, enhancing privacy and safety, increasing access to devices, and improving the accessibility of government services for New Yorkers. The plan also includes regional snapshots and a searchable statewide inventory of nearly 1,000 programs and organizations working to address the barriers to broadband adoption.

“ConnectALL will use the federal funds, which it expects to receive later this year, in addition to state funding to implement the plan. ConnectALL will apply for the funds by the May 28 deadline and will be able to apply for additional federal funds, sourced from the $1.44 billion Digital Equity Capacity Grant program, over the next two years.”

ConnectALL Initiative

The press release added, “Hochul established the $1 billion ConnectALL Initiative – New York’s largest-ever investment in broadband access – to close the state’s digital divide, transform digital infrastructure, and ensure that all New Yorkers have access to reliable and affordable high-speed broadband internet service.”

To date, ConnectALL has overseen the launch and implementation of several programs to advance broadband access, including:

•The affordable housing connectivity program to bring new broadband infrastructure to homes in affordable and public housing, leveraging a $100 million federal investment from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Capital Projects Fund. The program is currently accepting applications for internet service providers here.

•The ConnectALL deployment program to fund internet service providers to reach unserved and underserved locations, drawing on an allocation of $664.6 million in federal funding from the broadband equity, access, and deployment program, as described in the ConnectALL broadband deployment initial proposal and five-year action plan. ConnectALL is currently conducting the challenge process to determine which locations in the state are eligible for this program.

•The municipal infrastructure program will utilize $228 million in federal funding to connect tens of thousands of homes statewide to high-speed internet through grants to public entities, local or Tribal governments, municipal utilities, utility cooperatives, and their private sector partners. Broadband infrastructure in the municipal infrastructure program will be owned by a public entity or publicly controlled, and internet service providers will use the new broadband infrastructure to provide New Yorkers with affordable, high-quality service options. The request for applications is now available on the ConnectALL website with phase 2 applications from public entities due April 19, and phase 3 applications form private entities due June 7.

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez said, “Access to reliable, affordable and high-speed broadband is crucial to ensuring the growth and development for our economy, education and quality of life for communities across New York. With this new investment to close the digital gap, we will be opening so many doors to working families and help them get ahead.”

Congressman Joe Morelle said, “Affordable and reliable internet is critical to participate in today’s society but, unfortunately, too many families in our community still lack access to this basic necessity. This investment, supported by federal resources, will help close this digital divide and expand broadband services to more people, helping them connect with doctors, teachers, and more.

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