News Column

Governor Cuomo Announces First-Ever New York State Broadband Champion Award Winners

June 5, 2014



ALBANY, N.Y., June 5 -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., issued the following news release:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the winners of the first-ever New York State Broadband Champion Awards, which recognize high-achieving leaders that work to expand broadband access across the state. The winners were honored at the second State Broadband Summit, which highlighted the important issues around broadband expansion and access. The Summit, held at the Desmond Hotel in Albany, brought together more than 300 national, state, and local broadband leaders, as well as decision makers in the broadband and technology sectors, who discussed emerging technologies and exciting developments in the industry.

"Access to high-speed internet is crucial to helping businesses compete and communities to remain connected in the 21st century economy," Governor Cuomo said. "At our second Broadband Summit, state officials came together with industry leaders to identify ways to strengthen broadband services and eliminate barriers to expanding internet coverage in underserved parts of the State. This is another example of how our administration is working to improve vital services, and I look forward to seeing this productive dialogue continue to yield results for New Yorkers."

The event is part of the New York State Broadband initiative and the effort to increase broadband availability and adoption statewide. It builds on the Governor's accomplishments in expanding broadband across New York, including the deployment of more than $68 million for broadband projects--the largest statewide broadband commitment funding in the nation. Through these investments, more than 160,000 households, 8,000 businesses, and 400 community anchor institutions will have access to high-speed broadband services.

The Summit included keynote addresses by Kenneth Adams, President, CEO & Commissioner of Empire State Development; Jonathan Adelstein, President and Chief Executive Officer, PCIA - The Wireless Infrastructure Association and former FCC Commissioner; Daniel Kent, U.S. Public Sector Chief Technology Officer, Cisco Systems; and Joe Reardon, Former Kansas City Mayor and Attorney at Law, McAnany, Van Cleave & Phillips, P.A.

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams said, "Statewide broadband access is an important step toward creating jobs and growing our local economies. As we explore both the challenges and the opportunities at this year's summit, we are encouraged by the tremendous response we've seen from stakeholders and industry leaders who are stepping up to ensure broadband is available in every corner of New York State."

The Broadband Champion Awards were presented to state broadband leaders who have performed outstanding work in the industry and have made a significant impact on advancing broadband access and adoption in New York. One winner was awarded with a Champion Award in each of the following categories:

Broadband Leadership Award - Phil Wagschal, Slic Network Solutions (North Country Region)

The Extraordinary Broadband Leadership Award is presented to an individual or company who has provided a major influence on the direction and success of broadband development in New York State, and has dedicated their time and leadership abilities to establish successful practices, which expand broadband infrastructure. Mr. Wagschal has been a leader in bringing Internet connectivity to rural New York for more than 25 years. He was the creative force that grew Nicholville Telephone's local Internet access provider from conventional dial-up to the fastest-in-the-nation technology and continues to lead technical and local market efforts today. His vision for broadband - and his dedication to bringing it to fruition - in rural New York might be best exemplified by his company's pursuit and receipt of Federal Stimulus Funding as well as several New York State broadband grants, including Connect NY, which have afforded the installation of more than 800 miles of middle-mile and last-mile fiber to extend broadband reach to 6,000 unserved or underserved homes.

Most Innovative Broadband Project - Queens Library (NYC Region)

The Most Innovative Broadband Project Award identifies a leading-edge product, service, application, project or program that has an emphasis on fueling New York's digital economy, while allowing citizens to be connected. Queens Library created a customized interface for Google Tablets that were donated to be circulated, without charge, to those who obtain library membership. The customized interface makes it possible to use the tablets with or without Wi-Fi access, while promoting digital literacy. The tablets serve as gateway devices for those who are not comfortable with technology, and are icon-driven for individuals with limited literacy and/or English skills. As a result, it puts thousands of broadband access points into the hands of those who need them.

Most Collaborative Broadband Project/Program - Clarity Connect, Inc.; Tompkins County; and Cayuga Counties (Southern Tier Region)

The Most Collaborative Broadband Project Award acknowledges a project or initiative that has increased statewide Internet use and/or promotes computer digital literacy, while making a substantial impact on broadband subscription rates in New York State. Clarity Connect, Inc. will expand last-mile service to over 95% of unserved residents and businesses in Tompkins and Cayuga counties, while simultaneously addressing subscription rates and digital literacy. The project has fostered collaborative efforts with a variety of stakeholders and partners - from the private sector to K-12 and higher education, to government, workforce agencies, and community non-profits. The project will expand broadband services to an estimated population of more than 5,700 households, 50 businesses, and 120 Community Anchor Institutions.

Best Broadband Adoption Initiative/Program - The City of New York'sDepartment of Information Technology and Telecommunications (NYC Region)

The Best Broadband Adoption Program Award recognizes a project that has had a great impact on computer digital literacy. The City of New York'sDepartment of Information Technology and Telecommunications utilized competitive grant funds to launch three complimentary programs to provide low-income residents with access to computers, broadband, and an array of training programs and resources to support digital literacy and job readiness. Together, these initiatives have served over 28,000 students with free computers; reached 12,000 families; and provided professional development for teachers to facilitate technology use in teaching and learning in 144 schools. These projects also opened or enhanced 100 public computer centers, installed more than 2,000 computer workstations, and delivered more than half a million hours of digital literacy, job readiness, and other training.

Economic Leadership Award - Southern Tier Network (Southern Tier Region)

The Economic Leadership Award celebrates the successful implementation of innovative, economically promising projects or programs in a community or region) that enhance New York's social and economic fabric, and quality of life for its residents. The Southern Tier Network is a not-for-profit local development corporation, which owns and operates a 280-mile Open Access dark fiber backbone throughout three counties within New York State'sSouthern Tier Region. Construction began on network in the summer of 2012, but due to the demand and desire service providers have placed upon this project, sustainability projections are now expected to be achieved within less than a two year time period. Local school districts have benefited from a dramatic reduction in service costs, an increase in bandwidth capabilities, and healthcare providers in particular have improved health care delivery, electronic data record keeping, and reduction in operation costs. This recipient has also generated an additional $6.5 million in private investment within the community as a direct result of their Open Access Network.

The Broadband Summit also featured updates on the New York State Broadband Initiative, and included several breakout sessions ranging from developing a regional broadband strategy, broadband for economic development and new research, broadband adoption for older adults, addressing digital access, industry best practices for broadband deployment, using broadband as an attraction tool for innovation sector companies, and more.

Since Governor Cuomo took office in 2011, New York State has achieved a significant number of accomplishments and experienced substantial growth in increasing broadband access. In March 2013, the Governor awarded $25 million to eighteen broadband projects sponsors to expand high-speed Internet access in rural upstate and underserved urban areas of New York through the Connect NY Broadband Grant Program. The award, combined with additional broadband funding awarded for broadband projects during Governor Cuomo's administration and through programs like the Regional Economic Development Council initiative, brings the total amount of funding to more than $68 million, the largest statewide broadband funding commitment in the nation.

Together, the Regional Council and Connect NY projects will bring broadband service to approximately 160,000 households, 8,000 businesses and 400 anchor institutions - many without any means to access the Internet, across more than 6,000 square miles of New York State. Most of the funding will be for the "last-mile" of broadband service, which means the projects will provide high speed Internet connections directly to New Yorkers. The last-mile is the most expensive portion of a broadband network, and often prevents many rural residents from receiving broadband service, even when service is available to nearby homes.

The Broadband Program Office also recently appointed members to the state's first Broadband Availability and Broadband Adoption Task Forces. The first meetings of the two newly established task forces to address broadband availability and broadband adoption were held January 29-30, 2014. The task forces are comprised of local and state leaders, members of the broadband provider community and adoption partners, and were created to develop strategies to accelerate high-speed broadband deployment and advance New York State's broadband availability goals, and address affordability, awareness, digital literacy, and the use of broadband for commercial and institutional use.

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