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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
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ALBANY, Feb. 12 -- According to the latest statewide poll from the Siena Research Institute, 52% of New Yorkers believe that our state is on the right track -- a noteworthy move up from last January, when just 36% felt the same way.
That’s good news, if only for this reason: government needs to function more effectively, and it usually works better when citizens are tuned into it. If this latest Siena poll is an indicator, more and more citizens are paying attention to what’s been widely welcomed as one of the most productive years ever in New York government.
To put it mildly, there’s a lot going on in New York State government. Just visit www.ny.gov -- a clearinghouse of sorts offering access to every branch of government and every state agency -- and follow the links on the home page for a quick “scan” of New York. One logo you’ll find there, “Universal Broadband: Connecting New York To The World,” links to the state Broadband Development and Deployment Council.
In and of itself, this logo continues to drive home an important point and an important goal. The point is that despite the recent finding that a majority of New Yorkers feel we’re on the right track, there’s plenty of unfinished and important work ahead of us. And one key outstanding goal is this: for every New Yorker who can pay all the attention he or she wants to what’s going on in New York government, there’s another New Yorker who deserves the same opportunity but doesn’t have it because they can’t access high-speed Internet.
For example, the state’s Legislative Commission on Rural Resources (LCRR), on which I serve, has estimated that at least 750,000 rural New Yorkers do not have broadband service.
Nearly two years ago, the New York State Broadband Development and Deployment Council (www.nysbroadband.ny.gov) was established by executive order and set forth the following mission: “…while the promise of broadband is great, the reality has yet to meet the promise in New York State. Broadband has not fully arrived for all New Yorkers. Overcoming the digital divide to become a national and global leader for broadband availability, capacity, and adoption will be challenging…To help New York remain competitive on a national and global scale, proactive executive leadership, strong policy mandates, and clear broadband guidelines will ensure broadband networks are widely deployed, affordable and accessible to all New Yorkers.”
In his 2010 campaign for governor, Andrew Cuomo pledged his commitment to an initiative that he envisioned would “foster cooperative private/public partnerships" to provide access to broadband infrastructure and technology. He noted the need for “a more coordinated effort among government agencies, municipalities and private industry.”
That need remains. It’s about fostering good citizenship at its most fundamental level. But in the 21st century economy, closing the digital divide and providing New York with a broadband and telecommunications infrastructure that’s second to none must remain a primary economic and educational goal.
There are bright spots. Early last year, the Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board (STC), in partnership with a $10-million investment from Corning Incorporated, announced plans for an optical fiber broadband network across Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties. As I noted at the time, this new network is patterned after one in Ontario County that’s nationally recognized as a model for rural broadband expansion and, as a result, it will likely help put our region more prominently on the map of great places to do business. In early January, after a yearlong effort, the Tompkins County Broadband Committee issued its recommendations for achieving universal broadband service (View the committee’s report, “Broadband Internet Access For All Residents of Tompkins County: Keeping Our Community Connected,” at: http://www.tompkins-co.org/legislature/).
Each of our regional economic development councils, those representing the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes regions, have highlighted the importance of broadband development.
So while we’re facing unprecedented short- and long-term economic and fiscal challenges as a state and nationally, there’s an undeniable case being made (one that’s echoed across every level of government) that a successful future depends, particularly in rural Upstate New York, on the development of a top-flight broadband infrastructure.
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