broadbandThe state of New York has launched what it says is the largest state investment in broadband deployment in the U.S.

The initiative, to be known as New NY Broadband Program, will make $500 million available to network operators to bring broadband to unserved and underserved areas of the state. Operators will have to provide at least a 1:1 financial match. Funding will come from bank settlements, the state said.

“Access to high-speed Internet is critical to ensuring that all New Yorkers can reach their full potential in today’s technology-driven world,” said New York governor Mario Cuomo in a press release.

New NY Broadband
Network operators obtaining New NY funding will be required to deploy service supporting speeds of at least 100 Mbps except in the most remote areas, where operators will have to support speeds of at least 25 Mbps. In awarding funding, officials will select network operators that offer to provide the highest speeds at the lowest funding levels.

A 2014 survey of economic developers said 100 Mbps was the minimum speed necessary to attract and grow businesses, the New NY press release states.

The people who planned New NY clearly have been following what other states and municipalities have done to encourage broadband deployment and upgrades. The New NY press release notes, for example, that the state of New York will explore ways to streamline permitting processes, pursue “dig-once” and “make-ready” policies and institute uniform state agency procedures to support broadband goals. The state also will explore ways to leverage its own assets, including more than 500 miles of fiber running along the New York State thruway.

Although parts of New York are highly urban, the state also has many rural areas. The New NY press release notes, for example, that one million New Yorkers and 4,000 New York businesses are unable to get broadband at the state’s previously established target broadband speeds of 6 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream. And nearly 500 public schools in the state have no broadband service at all.

When the 100 Mbps target is used as the benchmark, 70% of upstate New Yorkers are without broadband.

Another notable aspect of New York state’s plans is that regional economic development councils within the state will submit comprehensive plans for their areas that will:

  •  Identify unserved and underserved areas
  • Aggregate demand across residential, institutional and business sectors
  • Details the most cost-effective way to provide universal access
  • Leverages state-owned assets where possible

According to the press release, this approach was successful for a previous initiative known as Connect NY.