Home » ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’: Madison County officials hope federal broadband promise is fulfilled
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‘I’ll believe it when I see it’: Madison County officials hope federal broadband promise is fulfilled

Madison County has plans to snake 269 miles of fiber optic cable through towns and villages to connect thousands of people to the internet, an endeavor they took onboard themselves after a promise from New York State never came through.

The federal government is promising an historic investment in broadband to ensure that every single household is covered.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Madison County Administrator Mark Scimone.

Scimone is part of the team that applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help cover the cost of fiber optic cables and construction to get more residents connected in 2020. This came after a $500 million program under then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo never fully materialized, leaving at least 1,300 homes without the ability to connect to the internet in Madison County.

An investigation by the NYS Comptroller found that the program lacked oversight, wasn’t completed before the COVID-19 pandemic and many who got connected through the program had low-quality and often unusable internet.

CNY Central asked Sen. Schumer about Governor Cuomo’s failed program, “We have seen what happened in the past when promises were unfulfilled. This is money that is being delivered today.”

Scimone and Madison County secured $10.1 million from the USDA. The county then chipped in $3.4 million, and Empire Wireless invested $2.4 million to become a local competitor with Spectrum for internet services. This resulted in enough fiberoptic cable — made in Corning, NY — to reach Boston from Wampsville.

Instead, it will stay local, with construction set to begin in 2024 to put the cables underground or up in the air using utility poles.

“It’s a long loop that goes all the way around the county,” Scimone said, “It’s pretty labor-intensive to do that work.”

This will provide internet to 76% of the remaining disconnected homes, according to Scimone. This week, Sen. Schumer announced in Bridgeport that the federal government will send over $664 million to New York to get everyone statewide online.

Broadband is not a luxury, it’s like water, it’s like electricity. It’s essential.

That money is a portion of the Biden Administration’s $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (BEAD) included in infrastructure initiatives.

Scimone said that he knows Sen. Schumer is committed to Madison County, but he has concerns about the fact that the money goes directly to NYS, and the state then is in charge of distribution. The county administrator would rather the money go straight to localities.

Source: Cny Central