FCC votes to expand New York broadband deployment

FCC votes to expand New York broadband deployment

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken its first action under new chairman Ajit Pai, by voting to provide up to $170 million to expand broadband deployment in under-served rural areas of New York State.

Addressing the digital divide in the country, Pai, who was confirmed as Tom Wheeler’s successor at the watchdog by President Donald Trump, said: “Broadband is critical to economic opportunity and job creation. This is a first step of many to fulfil my promise to empower Americans with online opportunities, no matter who they are and no matter where they live.”

The FCC says the $170 million from the Connect America Fund will be coupled with “at least $200 million in state funding and private investment to jump-start broadband deployment and close the digital divide in these unserved areas more quickly”.

The Connect America Fund was created by the FCC in 2011 with the aim to deploy broadband in rural and under-served areas.

In May 2016, the FCC established rules for investing over $2 billion for the Connect America Fund Phase II auction to help expand rural broadband access over the next decade. At the time, the FCC said: “Last year, the nation’s largest carriers – known as “price cap” carriers – accepted $9 billion over six years from Phase II of the Connect America Fund to expand broadband in their rural service areas. And in March, the FCC reformed its broadband support for the nation’s smallest carriers, providing $20 billion over the next decade.”

The new partnership will result in a more efficient and effective use of both state and federal funding. The Order adopted by the FCC authorises Connect America Phase II support in areas where applicants are selected through New York’s competitive New NY Broadband Program. “The funding that will be made available was declined by Verizon in 2015,” an FCC statement added yesterday.

The Commission continues to work on implementing a nationwide auction to award support for broadband deployment in other rural areas of the country.

Overall, the FCC’s Universal Service Fund allocates $4.5 billion annually through various universal service programmes for high-cost areas to support voice- and broadband-capable networks in rural America.