Cuomo fast-tracks internet upgrades

HUDSON—Calling it the “single most important issue” for economic development in Upstate New York, Governor Andrew came to Columbia County this week to unveil an ambitious plan for making broadband internet service available everywhere in the state within the next two years.

The governor and Audrey Zibelman, chair of the state Public Service Commission, described how the state will spend $500 million on upgrades and new service even to the most rural areas. Columbia will receive $2.5 million.

The governor described access to broadband service essential infrastructure for the modern economy and compared it to the highways built nationwide in the 1950.

He said currently, broadband is available only in upstate communities that have the population density to make the service profitable for private companies that provide the service. Those communities that do have this service are doing well, but he said much of the region north of New York City is lacking fast service and those same areas have received less than its fair share of state aid for the last 40 years.

Ms. Zibelman defined broadband service as 100 Mbps, which is many times faster than local DSL service currently offers most consumers. She said the state’s approval of the merger between Charter Communications and Time-Warner cable comes with a requirement that the merged company deliver this high speed service to all of its service area. That area includes large parts of Columbia County.

The PSC chief said the company has pledged to complete the upgrades “by this winter.”

In his remarks the governor also praised state Senator Kathy Marchione (R-43rd) and Assemblymember Didi Barrett for their helping get the budget allocation for rural broadband into the state budget.

The funding and other measures will benefit over 14,000 households in the county, the governor said.

Patti Matheny of Ghent, the chair of Connect Columbia, a countywide group pressing for broadband service, attended the announcement. She said afterward that her group was “thrilled to be part of the effort that helped push this forward.” She praised Assemblymember Barrett a meeting in May that informed local and state officials of how bad service is in parts of the county.

In introducing the governor, Columbia Economic Development Corp. president and CEO Mike Tucker thanked Mr. Cuomo for his leadership and commitment to upstate economic development revitalization and the “Broadband For All” initiative.

About 100 people, including a large contingent of press and local officials attended the announcement at the new Hudson Area Library on State and 5th streets in Hudson. The governor received sustained applause for his remarks.

“You cannot be competitive without broadband,” he said.

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