New York Launches Municipal Infrastructure Program

NY ConnectALL logo

Yesterday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a $228 million infusion of federal funds the Empire State will earmark for its recently established Municipal Infrastructure Program (MIP).

Created as part of New York’s billion dollar ConnectALL Initiative, the MIP is specifically designed to support municipal broadband projects, which have shown to be a viable, and increasingly popular, way to bring affordable, high-quality Internet service to an entire community.

NY Gov. Kathy Hochul

New York is a notable exception to what most other states are doing as those states prepare to funnel the lion’s share of its federal broadband funds to the big incumbent providers with scant, if any, support for publicly-owned broadband projects. In New York – similar to states like Maine, Vermont, and California – state leaders are devoting a significant chunk of federal funds, all $228 million of its recent disbursement of Capital Projects Funds, to build publicly-owned, open access networks.

“Broadband infrastructure in the Municipal Infrastructure Program will be owned by a public entity or publicly controlled, and Internet Service Providers will use the new broadband infrastructure to provide New Yorkers with affordable, high quality service options,” the press announcement said.

The infusion of $228 million into the MIP the governor’s office described as a “transformative investment (that) follows the completion of the Municipal Infrastructure pilot projects, which demonstrated the transformative benefit of publicly-owned, open access fiber optic networks.”

Those pilot networks (which includes Sherburne Connect), Hochul’s office said, have already passed more than 3,000 homes in four upstate communities to deliver affordable fiber service (as we previously reported) – a harbinger of things to come as the state scales up the MIP to fund future projects.

Sherburne Connect logo

Hochul’s office went on to note how open access networks can be “used by multiple service providers, bringing consumer choice to underserved areas,” while adding how “public ownership means broadband infrastructure is a basic utility available to all households in these communities.”

Underwritten by funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, the MIP is just one tool in the state’s $1 billion ConnectALL toolbox. The bulk of the state’s “largest-ever investment in broadband access to close the state’s digital divide” relies mostly on funds from the BEAD program and Digital Equity Act.

Courtesy of the bipartisan infrastructure law, New York is poised to receive a $664.6 million BEAD allocation to build new networks, which is more focused on homes that lack network infrastructure while the Rescue Plan funds can be used in homes where there may be some infrastructure but it isn’t getting the job done.

As the state prepares to administer the bulk of its federal broadband funds in the coming year or so, Hochul’s office noted three ConnectALL milestones that have already been accomplished, which includes:

  • Establishing a $100 million dollar Affordable Housing Connectivity Program to connect New Yorkers living in affordable and public housing using a previous allocation of Capital Projects Fund. That program is currently seeking applications for ISPs here.
  • Completion of the state’s BEAD 5-Year Action Plan and Initial Proposal, as well as standing up its ConnectALL Deployment Program, which will administer $664.6 million in BEAD grants to eligible providers proposing to build out service to reach unserved and underserved locations across the state.
  • Setting the table for New York’s Digital Equity Program, which will use $50 million in Digital Equity Act funds to promote digital skills training and other non-infrastructure barriers to adoption and use.

Inline image of Gov. Kathy Hochul courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic