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Tonko Fight for Federal Broadband Funding Pays Off with SpaceX Announcement

Congressman welcomes arrival of next generation service provider, vows to hold them and FCC accountable for raising service standards in Capital Region and beyond

WASHINGTON, DC—After leading a bipartisan and bicameral effort in Congress to demand that New York State be considered eligible for federal rural broadband funds, Congressman Paul D. Tonko announced today that $99,891,715 has been allocated to a new service provider in New York to deliver broadband access to parts of the Capital Region that are currently unserved. The funding will bring broadband services to 46,647 locations across the state, including several communities in the Capital Region that will be served by SpaceX, with funds awarded and administered through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Auction. SpaceX won its bid to deliver high-speed, low-latency internet at a 100Mbps baseline tier.

“Broadband internet access is fundamental to building a strong, just and competitive economy for our region and nation,” Congressman Tonko said. “For years now, I have heard from students, small businesses, educators and health care providers who have struggled to do their critical work with limited or no access at home or on the job. The strain of this pandemic has made these challenges even more acute and revealed the great work that still needs to be done in expanding access to quality, affordable broadband service. The FCC made matters worse when they attempted to block New Yorkers from benefitting from federal rural broadband funds based on a false and discredited claim that our communities are already served. I called the FCC Chairman myself, and teamed up with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and together we were able to stop this misguided attempt. I am delighted that our efforts have now delivered a nearly $100 million investment to expand rural broadband in areas in our region and across the state where, even today, families and businesses have historically been left behind.”

The FCC’s claims of full coverage and support of New York stem from its chronic failure to correctly map households in the state. After learning that the agency planned to cut NYS out of applying for RDOF Auction funding, Tonko spearheaded the successful effort to reverse that ineligibility, leading the NY delegation in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai calling for that reversal. In May 2020, Tonko sent another stinging letter to the Chairman with testimonials from dozens of NY-20 teachers, students, parents and small business owners all struggling without broadband internet access.

The Capital Region will receive a total of $980,888.54 in broadband funding, with each county receiving the following:

  • Albany County will receive $71,257.20 in funding to 55 locations
  • Schenectady County will receive $7,076.60 in funding to 5 locations
  • Saratoga County will receive $383,347.24 in funding to 187 locations
  • Rensselaer County will receive $61,336.00 in funding to 15 locations
  • Montgomery County will receive $457,871.50 in funding to 328 locations

“With the announcement of this Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction funding, many unserved households and businesses in our Capital Region have new reason to be hopeful,” Tonko added. “The start of a new administration overseeing the FCC and the entrance of new next-generation service provider SpaceX here could combine to bring cutting-edge broadband technology to our region. I remain optimistic but I will not be satisfied, nor will I stop this fight, until every person in our region and every community throughout our nation has access to this fundamental tool for education, health, commerce and so much more.”

Tonko has fought on multiple fronts to improve broadband access, combining greater oversight and accountability for federal broadband resources with expanded federal investments in public and private broadband infrastructure. H.R. 1328, the ACCESS BROADBAND Act that he authored was included in the major House of Representatives infrastructure package, H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, which advanced out of the House earlier this year. Tonko continues to fight to ensure that all unserved areas in the Capital Region have fair access to federal funds.


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