Schumer says the “Light Up Livingston” initiative he fought for 2 years ago will finally become a reality, bringing high-speed Internet access to thousands of Livingston households, farms, businesses and schools
Schumer: Time to bridge the digital divide for Livingston County!
Following his successful efforts to secure an $11.3 million grant for Livingston County from the USDA’s Broadband ReConnect program, US Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced the launch of the County’s “Light Up Livingston” initiative, which will provide high-speed Internet access to over 1,000 Livingston addresses. Empire Access, a family-owned telecommunications provider based in Prattsburgh, NY, is working with Livingston County to build the new infrastructure. Specifically, the grant will enable the deployment of a fiber-optic network to reach thousands of residents, including 96 farms and 22 businesses in Livingston County, New York.
“This $11.3 million represents a game-changer for Livingston County and I’m proud to have championed the federal investment that will help bring broadband Internet access to every corner of the county.” Senator Schumer said. “This investment is not only about faster internet, but also about building a stronger and more resilient community. The “Light Up Livingston” initiative will not only help businesses and farms thrive, it will also connect families to vital resources such as tele-health and online education. This is a critical step forward for the Livingston community and I’m thrilled to see this initiative I fought for 2 years ago finally come to fruition as we work to build a brighter future for all.”
Light Up Livingston is a county-led initiative addressing the need for affordable high-speed broadband service. The goal is to provide the opportunity for high-speed fiber-optic Internet access through the rollout of last-mile fixed broadband at every address in the county. This effort is comprised of several phases, Internet Service Providers, and grant opportunities where available. Livingston County and Empire Access have formed a public-private partnership specifically for the use of these grant funds. Empire Access will own and operate hundreds of miles of a fiber-optic network, and Livingston County has provided matching funds for the grant. Over time Empire Access will pay the County for this investment.
“When rural business owners, students and families have access to good, reliable, high-speed Internet, their opportunities grow,” Xochitl Torres Small, USDA Undersecretary of Rural Development She said. “Here in New York, as we pioneer a project made possible by an $11.3 million USDA ReConnect grant, I know this investment will impact people throughout Livingston County and beyond. Under the leadership of the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is committed to working with leaders like Senator Schumer to ensure that people, no matter where they live, have access to high-speed internet. That’s how the economy grows, in rural communities and across the nation.”
“With Monday’s opening of Light Up Livingston, households and businesses across Livingston County are now one step closer to accessing the high-speed, reliable broadband Internet essential to staying competitive and informed in the ‘today’s environment,” he said David L. LeFeber, chairman of the Livingston County Board. “Light Up Livingston is a generational project ensuring our residents have access to evolving telehealth opportunities, expansion into remote work, education and more. I am grateful to Senator Schumer for his tireless defense of Livingston County and rural communities.”
Jim Baase, CEO of Empire Access said, “We are thrilled to partner with Livingston County, Senator Schumer and the USDA to build over 300 miles of fiber optic network to serve rural homes and farms with gigabit broadband. USDA grants are essential to providing affordable broadband to rural America!
Schumer’s announcement today comes after numerous visits to Livingston County both to push and to announce the delivery of these funds to meet the county’s broadband needs in 2020 and 2021. Schumer also personally pushed the then presidential candidate. President-elect Tom Vilsack asked USDA for this funding during their first meeting in January 2021 and urged the candidate to prioritize Livingston County’s grant application.
Schumer made the announcement today at the home of Bill and Meg Lloyd in Geneseo, who Schumer says knows firsthand the need for this new broadband expansion. Schumer pointed out that Lloyd’s has struggled for years, switching to a variety of poor internet services and hotspots, but the results have always been the same: limited speeds, data caps, erratic coverage and large overage charges. This was especially challenging when Covid hit and their young adult daughters moved home and needed a reliable internet connection for their work. Schumer explained that the new wired service will be a game changer for them and their neighbors to finally have stable and fast Internet access.
Schumer has provided strong support for broadband access in upstate New York in the past and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schumer voted in 2018 to pass the FY 2019 Appropriations Act, which created the USDA ReConnect program that made this grant possible. In 2019, Schumer helped secure a $10.3 million Yates County grant from ReConnect’s first round of grants to build broadband access to more than 3,000 households and businesses. Livingston County’s grant today is part of the second round of ReConnect grants made possible by the $550 million Schumer helped secure in the FY 2020 Appropriations Act. These grants are in addition to historic funding that has been in able to provide through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), which provided $7.17 billion for distance learning. Today’s investment also adds to historic federal funding secured under the Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law, which included a record $65 billion for expansion of high-speed Internet to connect the unserved, make the Internet accessible, and deliver digital literacy resources.
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