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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
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ALBANY, Oct. 21 -- In a largely unintentional linking of the future and the past, New York’s recognition, throughout October, of the nationally observed Cyber Security Awareness Month stands to highlight two – that’s right, two -- of the great technological challenges still facing our state.
The first challenge is the obvious one: cyber security. It looks into an exciting, but also troubling future.
But there’s a second challenge that’s coming to mind this month, one that focuses on the need to get us out of a rapidly fading past.
Cyber security is the “new world” challenge. At the beginning of October, Governor Andrew Cuomo named the head of the state’s new Cyber Security Advisory Board, which was created earlier this year to ensure that statewide safety and security keeps pace with the ability of cyber terrorists, cyber thieves and any other would-be cyber criminal to cause harm. The board’s also charged with keeping our existing public safety and security systems as up to date, effective and responsive as possible.
Building on these state-level efforts, the state Senate has scheduled a public hearing in Utica in mid-November, “Cyber Security: Defending New York from Cyber Attacks.”
The public concern over cyber security simply wouldn’t have crossed most of our minds just a few short decades ago. But here we are, and there’s no turning back. It’s not just about a post-9/11 emphasis on preventing terrorism anymore. We constantly read stories about the across-the-board threats that make cyber security one of modern life’s inescapable realities. For most of us the obvious impact asks, “How can I protect my home computer?” But it becomes a much more complicated task for governments, corporations, health care systems and other large organizations. The threats range from straightforward identity thefts to more sophisticated attacks that pose at-large risks to public security.
So the digital age is now inextricably bound with everyday public safety – at least for most New Yorkers, a point which brings me to the second, “old world” challenge of this digital age: closing the digital divide.
As I’ve written here so many times, we’re facing unprecedented short- and long-term economic and fiscal challenges as a state and nation. But there’s an undeniable case to be made – one that’s echoed across every level of government -- that a successful and vibrant future depends on the development of a top-flight broadband infrastructure. Whenever we examine how best to strengthen local economies or create more jobs for more workers, the discussion inevitably turns to today’s “digital economy.” The same holds true for education, where “digital classrooms” have become fundamental to the success of our students.
So it’s hard to believe that, according to the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources (LCRR) and others, an estimated 750,000 rural New Yorkers do not have broadband (high-speed Internet) service. Despite its fundamental importance, the so-called “digital divide” remains a serious, demanding challenge. It speaks to fostering good citizenship, yet providing New York with a broadband and telecommunications infrastructure that’s second to none remains a primary economic and educational goal and responsibility.
Closing this still-gaping divide is underway throughout New York – at the local and state levels – in a variety of important ways. In early 2013, for example, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a round of state funding through the state’s Connect NY Broadband Grant Program to expand high-speed Internet access in rural upstate and underserved urban areas. This year’s funding, according to the administration, set in motion “the largest statewide broadband funding commitment in the nation.” It’s helping to support a number of critical broadband expansion projects underway across New York, including right here throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions.
According to New York's Broadband Program Office (http://www.nysbroadband.ny.gov/), “Better broadband means greater opportunities for New Yorkers. By leveraging today’s Internet, citizens have greater opportunities to connect to educational and workforce development training resources; communities can foster more economic development; businesses can access new markets and create more jobs, and our schools, colleges and universities can conduct high-tech research and development and build an innovative and talented high-tech workforce. But residents cannot fully participate in the digital economy without access to affordable broadband and the ability to use it.”
New York State must stay focused on cyber security and all of the looming, troubling threats that we see coming on this horizon.
But we also have to recognize that, for far too many of New York’s citizens and communities, the startling fact is much more simple and straightforward: Broadband has not arrived. It has to. We need to keep taking steps to more fully deploy affordable and accessible high-speed Internet which, ultimately, is the gateway to a more educated, more economically strong and more competitive State of New York.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano--
Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869