Hello Patient Lexingtonians,
We have waited a long time for the 2015 Broadband 4-Everyone expansion grant window to open and on January 8, the announcement that grant applications would be accepted on March 1 for round one of the cycle was made. You can read about that here:
The very good news is that the focus for the $500 million being made available through the grant program for one to one matches with private providers has been kept. Unserved or “end mile” communities are the primary funding targets. Here are elements of the program:
– In the most remote areas of the state, 25 Mbps will be allowable speed
– The private sector must provide a 50 percent match in investment across the program
– High priority will be given to projects in underserved areas, including libraries and educational opportunity centers
– Applications will be chosen through a “reverse-auction” process, which will award funding to project bidders seeking the lowest state investment
– Auctions will be held within each Regional Economic Development Council region to ensure statewide allocations of funding.
According to the press release, all projects awarded funding through the program are to be finished by December of 2018.
A second round of applications will be accepted in June, if current projections hold. That is the round that most concerns Lexington and most other communities in unserved, upstate New York. The reason for this is twofold: Under the terms of the 2015 expansion grant guidelines, concessions exacted by the Public Service Commission to allow the merger of Time Warner and Charter Communications to go forward, coupled with federal funds available under the Connect America program that will be rolled out later this month, make any towns that have a Time Warner franchise agreement, and any towns with Verizon phone exchanges ineligible for round 1 application submission.
Because Time Warner must expand their coverage footprint to 145,000 unserved homes in their franchise areas, and because Verizon is eligible to apply for the federal Connect America funding, it’s probable that waiting to see where Time Warner moves to meet the terms of their merger with Charter Communication, and waiting to see if Verizon shows interest in the funding available to them to expand coverage in upstate communities makes sense to the New York State Broadband office. They will not accept expansion grant applications from Time Warner franchise areas and Verizon exchange areas until that first window of applications closes in April. If you follow the link above, you can read the RFP (request for proposals or grant application criteria) on your own. All of the information is there.
The upside: 145,000 more homes will be taken out of expansion grant competition because they will have coverage committed to them under the terms of the merger. Time Warner/Charter must self-fund their expansion. No grant award money will be extended to them to cover infrastructure costs related to the terms of their merger agreement. Moreover, if history guides us, Verizon is unlikely to offer Broadband coverage in upstate New York.
And so we look forward with confidence to June. Lexington’s application will be prepared by our grant partners, Margaretville Cable and Western Catskills Community Revitalization Council. They are prepared to meet the grant application deadline, and have been gathering both anecdotal and data driven parts of the application over the past months. Margaretville Cable has applied for and won Connect NY grants for broadband expansion in the past. They are a respected resource at the state level. We have the best representation we could have going forward. Under the leadership of Warren Hart at the County level, we have the knowledge that local providers are working together to help shape the best plans that will meet all of the criteria for applications in June.
I don’t know if in the end we will succeed, but I do know that Lexington– all of you– have put yourselves behind this effort in a way that has to be a model for cohesiveness, enthusiasm and commitment to a cause. We are a small town that has made its case and we’ll continue to make our case until the future belongs to us.