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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Connecting the last mile"
ALBANY, Nov. 28 -- New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who devotes a great deal of his work to reporting on the emerging global economy and American’s place in it, recently wrote: “There is a concept in telecommunications called ‘the last mile,’ that part of any phone system that is the most difficult to connect – the part that goes from the main lines into people’s homes.”
Friedman references this telecommunications concept as an entryway into a column on the efforts of an elite technology school in India to connect “the last person” to the basic tools of the worldwide Web.
I’ll utilize both of these ideas, in turn, to again highlight
one of the key challenges still facing New York State at the start of
the second decade of the 21st century. It’s a challenge prominently
featured, for example, in the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development
Council’s recently released strategic plan for the future of our
local economy: “Twenty-first century growth is unquestionably dependent
on the flow of digital information over uninterrupted high-bandwidth channels…While
broadband access is developing in the Southern Tier, geographic pockets
exist where high-speed Internet, wireless and wireline coverage lag behind
the state average. This is particularly true in the region’s most
rural communities, where economic development is most sluggish. The primary
challenge in developing ubiquitous broadband access is securing the funding
The Finger Lakes Regional Council also addresses the need for broadband development in its plan. Both plans can be viewed on my website, www.omara.nysenate.gov (click on the “Open for Business” icon).
New York State’s overall broadband development efforts are coordinated
by the Broadband Development and Deployment Council [http://www.cio.ny.gov/].
Upon releasing its 2010 annual report last May, the council’s chair
said, “While New York has leveraged public/private
Again that goal of connecting the last mile, the last person, every New Yorker. It’s an investment and a goal whose time has clearly arrived. Earlier this year, the Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board’s (STC), in partnership with a $10-million investment from Corning Incorporated, announced a $12.2-million project to construct an optical fiber broadband network across Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties and dramatically expand regional access to high-speed Internet service.
Efforts like these are going to make all the difference, and local, state and federal leaders must find any and every way to encourage and invest in them. Because as the Southern Tier Regional Council noted, there are still too many “last miles” remaining unserved or underserved across upstate New York.
In fact, the Legislature’s joint, bipartisan Rural Resources Commission, on which I serve as a member, has estimated that at least 750,000 rural New Yorkers do not have high-speed Internet access. That’s unacceptable.
As a state (as well as a nation), we’re facing unprecedented short- and long-term challenges. But if there’s one widespread agreement emerging on what the response needs to be, it’s that government leaders can’t dismantle the foundations of economic strength. There’s an undeniable case being made – and it’s echoed across every level of government -- that the No. 1 key to the future is an economy that’s producing good, private-sector jobs and providing long-term economic security and stability.
In the 21st century economy, this means closing the “digital divide.” Providing New Yorkers with equal access to high-speed Internet is critical. High-speed Internet has become fundamental to economic and educational success. It’s one foundation for bringing the excitement and prosperity of a high-tech future to upstate, rural New York. Once again, we should settle for nothing less than being the national leader in this regard, which means there’s work to do. Getting it done will require a level of public-private creativity, innovation and commitment that can help us stand apart in a fierce, global competition for jobs and economic opportunities – especially the high-tech opportunities of this new economy.
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: Margaret Starbuck, 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 Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869