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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
“Click here for the future”
ALBANY, Feb. 28 -- The calendar’s turning to March, which at the State Capitol means the Governor and the Legislature are about to get down to brass tacks on this year’s budget negotiations. But before our full attention turns to Albany, I’d like to stay focused for a while longer on some recent, fabulous news right out of our own back yard.
I simply can’t say enough about the Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board’s (STC) recent announcement of a $12.2 million project to construct an optical fiber broadband network across Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties. It promises to dramatically expand regional access to high-speed Internet service.
Not only is it an exciting collaboration among numerous local leaders and organizations. Not only is it moving forward thanks to a $10 million investment from Corning Incorporated. And not only will this new network be patterned after one in Ontario County that’s recognized nationally as a model for rural broadband expansion. But maybe most significant of all, at a time when America’s focus on closing the “digital divide” has never been sharper, this new project puts our region squarely on the map of noteworthy broadband development projects taking place anywhere across the nation – which means that it will likely help put us more often on the radar of great places to do business. That’s important.
It’s been estimated that at least 750,000 rural New Yorkers do not have high-speed Internet access. As the issue of broadband has gained increasing attention over the past four years, The Communications Workers of America (CWA) has published an annual report, “Speed Matters” (www.speedmatters.org), examining Internet upload and download speeds in all 50 states. In 2008, New York had the fourth-fastest download speed ranking. Last year, we fell to the fifth-fastest. The CWA has noted, however, that Internet speeds in New York “vary tremendously by region, with Upstate and Western New York considerably slower than Downstate.” Overall, according to the association’s latest report, 39% of New Yorkers have Internet speeds that are below minimum national standards.
To put it as succinctly as possible, then, this new local broadband network is a big deal. For a lot of reasons. I’m currently conducting an online survey on my website, omara.nysenate.gov, that includes a question asking whether respondents are optimistic or pessimistic about this region’s future. So far, the response is a mixed bag of optimism and uncertainty. Projects like this one can only serve to make us more optimistic.
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. That’s what makes the recent news especially exciting and promising for our region. We’re demonstrating the kind 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 415, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869