WASHINGTON, D.C. (WETM) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced $1,094,614 in federal funding for the towns of Dryden and Caton to expand access to broadband internet.
The funding was allocated through the Appalachian Regional Commission and will be used to install fiber optic cables and establish telecommunications towers to provide broadband services to over 4,000 households and roughly 300 businesses in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes that currently lack reliable internet access.
The Town of Caton will receive $470,000 to establish four new broadband telecommunications towers to bring broadband services to the communities of Caton and Lindley. The Town of Dryden will receive $624,614 to install 13.5 miles of fiber optic cabling that will service 50 public school buildings, 4 vocational school campuses, 28 public libraries, and multiple universities.
“Long before COVID-19, rural and urban communities throughout the Southern Tier and Upstate New York have struggled to close the digital divide. Reliable, fast internet access isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity required to create good-paying jobs, to communicate, to access health care, to shop, and to learn,” said Senator Schumer. “I am proud to deliver this investment which will help the Town of Dryden and the Town of Caton close the digital divide. I’ll continue fighting tooth and nail to bring the Southern Tier’s broadband infrastructure into the 21st century.”
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, millions of New Yorkers have relied on the internet to work, learn, receive health care, and see their loved ones,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Yet in too many of our rural communities, internet access is unreliable or nonexistent, meaning that the more than 1 million households in New York State that lack broadband are cut off from critical services and economic opportunity. This funding is an important step to help close the digital divide and spur economic growth in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes. I’ll keep fighting to ensure that every New Yorker, regardless of zip code, has access to fast, reliable internet.”
“We are happy ARC is supporting Dryden Fiber, which will provide residents, educators, and businesses in Dryden with fast, reliable and affordable municipal broadband internet service,” said Dryden town supervisor, Jason Leifer. “Dryden Fiber will begin construction and serve customers in 2022.”
In the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the ARC was allocated $1 billion over 5 years, increasing the budget to $200 million per year through 2026, including $20 million per year in dedicated funding to deploy high-speed internet across the region.
The legislation also includes nearly $2 billion for USDA’s ReConnect Program for the construction or improvement of facilities that provide broadband services in rural areas and $14.2 billion to create a permanent, sustainable Affordable Connectivity Benefit that will provide a $30 per month voucher for low-income families to use toward any internet service plan of their choosing.
Over the last decade, the ARC has helped fund over $32 million in essential projects for Upstate NY, helping create or retain over 4,400 jobs. Projects have included expanded access to high-speed internet, projects to reduce energy costs, support for entrepreneurs and small businesses, and workforce training.