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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Labor Day, back to school and technology"
ALBANY, Sept. 3 -- Two sure signs that yet another summer has slipped by arrive this week with our annual Labor Day observance and when students locally and all across New York start heading back to school. But these two events have more in common than just marking the end of summer because whether we’re talking about today’s workforce or education in the 21st century, the discussion sooner or later gets around to the overriding importance of technology.
When we talk about how best to create more jobs for more workers, the discussion inevitably turns to today’s “digital economy.” Same goes for education, where “digital classrooms” have become fundamental to the success of our students. Which makes it somewhat hard to believe that, according to the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources (LCRR) and others, it’s estimated that at least 750,000 rural New Yorkers do not have broadband (high-speed Internet) service. In May 2011, a state-sponsored study concluded that another six million state residents still face significant obstacles, including affordability, to broadband connectivity.
So despite its fundamental importance, the so-called “digital divide” remains a serious challenge for New York State. It embodies the fundamental goal of simply fostering good citizenship, yet closing this troubling divide and providing New York with a broadband and telecommunications infrastructure that’s second to none remains a primary economic and educational goal as well.
Nearly two years ago, the New York State Broadband Development and Deployment Council (www.nysbroadband.ny.gov) 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…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.”
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, put a plan in motion for an optical fiber broadband network across Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties. Earlier this year in Ithaca, the Tompkins County Broadband Committee issued recommendations for achieving universal broadband service. Each of our regional economic development councils, those representing the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes regions, has highlighted the importance of broadband development.
And there was some exciting news on this front out of Albany just recently when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the start of the application process for the distribution of $25 million through the "Connect NY" program to promote and expand broadband Internet access in unserved and underserved rural upstate and urban areas. Connect NY represents the “single-largest direct investment of state funding into expanding broadband access in the United States,” according to the governor’s office.
"This investment in high-speed Internet access will ensure that the information superhighway will be open to all New York businesses," Governor Cuomo said. "By expanding the availability of high-quality broadband services, Connect NY makes our state a national leader in the digital economy and gives our businesses the tools they need to compete and prosper in the global economy."
The grants are being awarded regionally to Internet service companies and in partnership with local governments and economic development organizations. Connect NY broadband applications will be accepted through October 5, 2012. The application can be found at:
Applications are also available through the regional economic development councils and Empire State Development.
For additional details and information, or to request an application, the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council (which encompasses Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Tompkins counties within my legislative district) can be contacted through Empire State Development’s (ESD) regional office in Elmira at 607-426-2999 or by email at email@example.com. The Finger Lakes Regional Council (which includes Yates County in my district) can be reached at ESD’s regional office in Rochester 585-399-7050 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
As I’ve said before, we’re facing unprecedented short- and long-term economic and fiscal challenges as a state and nation. But there’s an undeniable case being made – and it’s being echoed across every level of government -- that a successful and vibrant future depends on the development of a top-flight broadband infrastructure.
So the beginning of Connect NY, arriving this year at the crossroads of Labor Day and the first day of school, couldn’t be timelier or more welcome.
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