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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
to expand infrastructure into the most rural regions, and assuring that the cost of access remains affordable to emerging businesses and residents.”

The Finger Lakes Regional Council also addresses the need for broadband development in its plan. Both plans can be viewed on my website, (click on the “Open for Business” icon).

New York State’s overall broadband development efforts are coordinated by the Broadband Development and Deployment Council []. Upon releasing its 2010 annual report last May, the council’s chair said, “While New York has leveraged public/private
investments to close the digital divide statewide, more still needs to be done. In the coming year we will continue to work with partners to ensure every New Yorker has access to affordable high-speed Internet and the associated economic, social and cultural opportunities that broadband can provide.”

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

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

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
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869