Stefanik pushes FCC to reconsider NY’s exclusion from rural digital funding program

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) last week said she successfully convinced Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai to revise a plan that excludes New York State from the newly proposed Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

“Expanding access to high-speed broadband is critical to the economic well-being of our region,” Rep. Stefanik said on Jan. 30.

The draft proposal for the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund rendered the entire state ineligible for the $16 billion to be allocated in Phase I of the plan to expand high-speed broadband access, according to Rep. Stefanik’s office, prompting the congresswoman and her New York State colleagues in Congress to send a bipartisan letter to the FCC asking it to reverse the decision. The lawmakers also reiterated the need for unserved areas in the state’s North Country to be included in the funding, Stefanik’s office said.

Rep. Stefanik also directly called Pai, who subsequently responded that New York will be considered for Phase I eligibility under the general criteria, according to her office.

“The FCC reversing their decision to categorically exclude New York is an important step in the right direction, as this will open the door to much-needed investment in the areas of North Country that still lack broadband connectivity,” said Rep. Stefanik. “However, the FCC’s treatment of areas without high-speed access despite some state investment will be central to the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund fulfilling its goal of truly closing the digital divide.”

The congresswoman added that she will “continue to work closely with the FCC throughout the development of this important initiative to expand rural broadband access in the North Country” of New York.