August 3, 2016
Albany, NY

Video, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Nearly $50 Million in Broadband Grants and Major Expansion of Charter High-Speed Internet in Upstate New York

TOP Video, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor...

97 Percent of New Yorkers Will Have Access to High-Speed Broadband, With Goal of Serving All New Yorkers by End of 2018

50 Percent of Unserved Homes and Businesses to Be Addressed By Round I Broadband Grants and Charter Rollout

More Than 2 Million Upstate Households to Receive Speed Upgrades by Early 2017 – Nearly 2 Years Ahead of Schedule

Round II RFP Grant Guidelines and Application Questions Available Here

2016-2018 Statewide Broadband Maps Available Here

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Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that nearly $50 million has been awarded in broadband grants to provide high-speed internet service to unserved and underserved homes and businesses across the state. The New NY Broadband Program has made sweeping progress toward achieving its nation-leading goal of broadband for all. On the heels of its merger with Time Warner Cable, Charter has outlined its four-year rollout plan to service 145,000 currently unserved households in upstate New York. Additionally, Charter will make available internet speeds of 100 megabits per second for more than 2 million upstate homes and businesses by early 2017 in its upstate service area, including in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton and Albany.

At an event at SUNY Potsdam today, the Governor also unveiled the New NY Broadband Program’s Round I awards, which will connect 34,000 homes to high-speed internet for the first time. Once completed, these actions will ensure 97 percent of New Yorkers have the broadband access required to succeed in a 21st century economy, with the goal of serving all New Yorkers by the end of 2018. More information is available here.

VIDEO of the Governor’s remarks at the SUNY Potsdam event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the Governor’s remarks is available here.

PHOTOS of the SUNY Potsdam event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:

Thank you very much. Good afternoon, it is my pleasure to be back in Potsdam, my pleasure to be back in the North Country. I wish it wasn’t an official trip and I could actually have some fun. I’ve had no time off this summer but I am going to change that soon. I am going to be back and you won’t recognize me. I will have a pair of shorts and a dirty t-shirt and a baseball hat and sunglasses and just go about my business.

Today is a very exciting day so let’s give John Burke a round of applause for opening up. To my colleagues, elected officials who are here. We have Gus Groupe, Billy James, Scott Gray, Michael Tabolt, Bill Farber, Bill Farabee, Roland Beatty and Ron Tischler, let’s give them a round of applause. Thanks for being here today. Garry Douglas from the Regional Economic Development Council who is doing a great job. Let’s give him a round of applause. Kirstin Esterberg, pleasure to be with you Madame President. Thank you for having us. 200-year-old Potsdam school, first SUNY organization prior to SUNY. My colleague from the legislature with whom today would not be possible, Patty Ritchie.

This is exciting because we have been talking about the situation of the Upstate economy for a long time and this really brings it home. Today it seems like all the problems are very complex. You just went through these political conventions and everyone is frustrated, everyone is angry. I’ve always believed that as complex as the problems are, if you turn them around there is always a simplicity to them. If you are willing to be honest and candid in your assessment. That is true in the state of New York. We have had a slow economy in Upstate New York for many, many, many years. Literally, 40 or 50 years. Why? Well because the economy turned, it was a manufacturing economy and the manufacturing economy turned. We had polices that set off those jobs to other countries. Nothing was brought in to replace it. The truth is also, the state aggravated the decline because the state kept raising taxes. So it took these areas that were struggling and the taxes keep going up, it accelerated people leaving. It accelerated the exit. When the businesses move the young people follow the businesses. Why? Because they need a future, they need jobs, they are setting up shop, and they are going to go where they think the future is. I can’t tell you how many parents said to me in Upstate New York, “it broke my heart, but I told my child they should leave,” because there was no economic future in Upstate New York.

The truth is the state government was not responsive to Upstate New York for many years because that is not where the political power was in the state. The political power in the state is Downstate New York. How can you say that? Because it is true. You look at the Senate, you look at the Assembly, predominantly more members come from Downstate New York. The New York City economy has been going great for many, many decades. Ups and downs, but the arrow was straight up for Downstate New York while the arrow was straight down for Upstate New York. The state government was not responsive enough.

We have flipped that entire equation. We have focused on Upstate New York like a laser beam. I was challenged the first couple of years I did it. People said, “How can you give so much emphasis to Upstate New York.” I said, “It’s very simple—that is where the need is.” As Governor, my job is to help the entire state and by definition, the places that have the more need should get more help. You have three children, one of the children has a greater need, you give that child the need. That doesn’t mean you love that child anymore or any else. But you give that child the need. The truth is I want to compensate for the abandonment by the state government over these past decades. So, to the Regional Economic Development Councils, marketing campaigns, etcetera, we have invested $25 billion in Upstate New York. More than any administration in the history of Upstate New York and I am proud of it.

Every time we did it, I said, “It is an investment, it is not a gift, it is an investment.” We are going to create jobs and when you create jobs you create revenues and when you create revenues, then the local government can take care of itself and then there are opportunities that draw the young people in, so it has been an investment. The numbers prove that that is true. Our unemployment rate statewide has dropped by about half over the past five, six, years. Today, New York State has 7.9 million private sector jobs, more private sector jobs that have ever existed in the history of the State of New York, believe it or not. I will tell you the sweetest success from my point of view. The unemployment drop has been just about equal between Upstate New York and Downstate New York. Both Upstate and Downstate are both going forward economically at the same rate, which is a totally different trajectory to the economic development story, which always saw New York City going up while Upstate was going down. It is working, it is working.

The single-best thing that we have done for Upstate New York is this. Commissioner Zibelman is a genius. In truth, we have worked together for many years. When she speaks, I never really understand her because she is too smart. I nod a lot like I understand because I am the Governor I can’t say, you know, “You are too smart for me.” She is a genius and what this state has done in this sector is unprecedented. This state leads the nation in clean energy, literally we are going to be number one in clean energy. With this program, New York State will be the first state in the nation to have high-speed broadband all throughout the state. The first state in the nation. I will tell you, it does my heart good when government actually sees a problem and engages in the problem and comes up with a solution and then gets it done in real time because that does not happen often. This is exactly that case, so let’s give another round of applause to Commissioner Zibelman.

I will tell you why I believe this is a game changer and the single-most important thing. High-speed internet is essential to society, not just to business. It is essential to society. Audrey says, “It is what the dial tone used to be”, right? It is fundamental connectivity certainly for a business, but also for people. My kids cannot do their homework without high-speed internet let alone do whatever else they do on the internet. But they cannot even do their homework without high-speed internet. If you do not have access to high-speed internet, you have such a terrible disadvantage on every level. One of the first things Tony Collins and Garry Douglas said to me about the North Country and helping the North Country, the first thing, they don’t even remember was, “You have to get us broadband. We cannot be competitive without broadband and the North Country has a significant problem when it comes to broadband.” The way broadband worked was private companies put in broadband. What the private companies did was they tended to put broadband in the areas of the highest concentration of businesses and people. Why? Because that was the biggest return on their dollar. You run a cable, and you hit the most number of homes with that one cable. They did not go to the rural parts of the state. They did not go to the places with smaller populations, so in essence it aggravated the problem. The places that were doing well got the broadband. The places that were not doing well did not get the broadband, which means the places that were not doing well fell further behind and the places that were already doing well had an additional advantage, and the places that were trying to compete now had a thirty-pound pack put on their back and we said, “Run the race.” That’s why Tony and Gary’s point was, “You have to get us broadband, because we’re not even in the game without broadband. Who’s going to site a hotel or a complex or a resort? If you don’t have high-speed access, my kids are going to say they’re not going to go. I can’t be totally disconnected from my business for that long.”

It was really a fundamental disadvantage. If you look at the map – can we go back to that map? The yellow areas are the areas that have internet. The white areas are the areas that do not have high-speed broadband. It is the same areas that are already doing well. Downstate New York has it 100 percent because that’s the density, that’s the concentration. Upstate, virtually by the way, has very little, and to the extent it does exist, it exists only in those areas of high concentration, which happen to be the areas that are already doing better economically. That is where we were, and that is damning. St. Lawrence County – 80 percent do not have high-speed internet. 80 percent. How do you deal with that? Private sector companies said, “Well, it’s not our business. We’re going to where we can make money, and that is what we’re going to do.” That is what every state across the country is dealing with. We took a little different approach. We said, “We understand the private sector companies want to make money. That’s what you do. God bless America. But we believe from a point of equality of competition and access, we want 100 percent coverage for economic reasons, access to education.” I mean, a child who is in school, who has access to high-speed broadband, has such an advantage over a child who does not, so there are a lot of reasons. Equality just from a social point of view, and the PSC and the state did two things.

Number one, a lot of these companies need state permission to merge, etcetera. Charter wanted to merge with Time Warner Cable. When they go to merge, they need the permission from the State of New York, so they went before the PSC and said, “We would like to merge Charter and Time Warner Cable,” and the PSC said, in the PSC language, the way they talk “that’s very nice that you would like to merge. As a matter of fact, I would like some things in life also, like help covering the places that are not covered.” And low and behold, the merger was approved, and they coincidentally agreed to cover many of the uncovered placed. There are some places that are just so rural and so far that there’s no economic reality to doing them, and then thanks to Patty Ritchie’s support and the legislature’s support, the state put aside $500 Million to supplement the development of high speed broadband in those areas. We then set the highest goal in the United States – not just broadband, 100 megabits per second, which is high-speed broadband, and by the way, high-speed broadband defined higher than the federal government, so it is really high speed broadband, we want 100 percent coverage in two years, which, when we started, everybody said it was an impossible goal. Impossible.

We’re going to do it. By next year, 2017 we will have 80 percent of the state done, 2018, 100 percent of the state done. And I believe this. I believe it takes a really heavy negative, a heavy liability and makes it a very big positive. Why? Because nowadays, if you have high speed internet, and I can be sitting in the North Country, I am in the same situation I’m in if I’m sitting in Park Avenue at 57th street in Manhattan, or in Paris, or in Albany. I have the same access to communication, the same access to business, nobody even knows where I am. And it takes your natural asset, the beauty, the natural beauty of the North Country. The splendor, the peace, the tranquility, and gives you the same access to commerce and communication as any other place. I think it now, not only equalizes the playing field. You have the advantage because if people can stay in the North Country, and continue to do their work and continue to do their business, who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t? And it takes that big omission up until now and it says – come to the North Country, you can do whatever you were doing anyway anywhere else on the globe, except you’re going to be in the most beautiful, special area on the globe, which is the North Country.

You put this together with everything else we’ve been doing, together with the big win from the Regional Economic Development Council, the energy projects that we’ve been doing, the tourism projects which are going great because tourism has taken a big increase. So you put all these pieces together and you understand why the numbers are dropping and why the jobs and employment are going up, and why there are more smiles on the faces of the people in the North Country than ever before. We’re not done yet, we have a lot more to do, but for the first time in a long time, my friends, and the arrows are pointed in the right direction. Thanks to the good work of the people in this room. Thank you, and god bless you.

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