May 13, 2023
Following his successful efforts to secure an $11.3 million grant for Livingston County from the USDA’s Broadband ReConnect Program, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced the launch of the county’s ‘Light Up Livingston’ initiative, which will provide high-speed internet access to over 1,000 Livingston addresses. Empire Access, a family-owned telecom provider based in Prattsburgh, NY, is partnering with Livingston County to build out the new infrastructure. Specifically, the grant will enable the deployment of a fiber-to-the-premises network to reach thousands of residents, including 96 farms and 22 businesses in Livingston County, New York.
“This $11.3 million is a game-changer for Livingston County, and I am proud to have fought for the federal investment that will help bring broadband internet access to every corner of the county,” said Senator Schumer. “This investment is about more than just faster internet – it’s about building a stronger, more resilient community. The ‘Light Up Livingston’ initiative will not only help businesses and farms thrive, but will also connect families to vital resources like tele-health and online education. This is a critical step forward for the Livingston community, and I am thrilled to see this initiative that I fought for 2 years ago finally coming to fruition as we work to build a brighter future for all.”
Light Up Livingston is a county-led initiative that responds to the need for high-speed affordable broadband service. The goal is to provide the opportunity for access to high-speed, fiber-optic internet through the deployment of final mile fixed broadband to every address in the County. This effort is comprised of several phases, internet service providers and grant opportunities where available. Livingston County and Empire Access formed a public-private partnership specifically for deployment of these grant funds. Empire Access will own and operate hundreds of miles of a fiber-optic network and Livingston County provided the match funds for the grant. Over time, Empire Access will pay the County for this investment.
“When rural business owners, students, and families have access to good, reliable, high-speed internet, their opportunities grow,” USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small said. “Here in New York, as we break ground on a project made possible by an $11.3 million USDA ReConnect grant, I know this investment will impact people across Livingston County and beyond. Under the leadership of the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is committed to partnering with leaders like Senator Schumer to ensure that people, no matter where they live, have access to high-speed internet. That’s how you grow the economy –in rural communities, and across the nation.”
“With Monday’s ground breaking for Light Up Livingston, families and businesses throughout Livingston County are now one step closer to having reliable, high-speed broadband internet that is essential to remaining competitive and informed in today’s environment,” said David L. LeFeber, Chair of the Livingston County Board of Supervisors. “Light Up Livingston is a generational project that ensures our residents have access to evolving tele-medical opportunities, expansion in remote work, education and more. I’m grateful to Senator Schumer for his tireless advocacy for Livingston County and rural communities.”
Jim Baase, CEO of Empire Access said, “We are excited to partner with Livingston County, Senator Schumer and the USDA to build 300+ miles of fiber optic network to service rural homes and farms with gigabit broadband. USDA grants are essential to provide affordable broadband to rural America!”
Schumer’s announcement today comes after multiple visits to Livingston County to both push for and announce the successful delivery of these funds to provide for the county’s broadband needs in 2020 and 2021. Schumer also personally pushed then President-elect Biden’s USDA Nominee, Tom Vilsack for this funding during their first meeting in January 2021 and urged the nominee to prioritize Livingston County’s grant request.
Schumer made the announcement today at the home of Bill and Meg Lloyd in Geneseo, who Schumer said knows firsthand the need for this new broadband expansion. Schumer highlighted that the Lloyd’s struggled for years, switching to a variety of subpar internet services and hotspots, but the results were always the same: limited speed, data limits, spotty coverage, and big overage charges. This was especially challenging when COVID hit and their young adult daughters moved home and needed reliable internet for their jobs. Schumer explained the new hardwired service will be a game changer for them and their neighbors to finally have access to stable, fast internet.
Schumer has provided strong support for broadband access in Upstate New York in the past and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Schumer voted in 2018 to pass the Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations bill, which created the USDA ReConnect Program that made this grant possible. In 2019, Schumer helped secure a $10.3 million grant for Yates County from ReConnect’s first grant round to construction broadband access to over 3000 households and businesses. The Livingston County grant breaking ground today is part of the second ReConnect grant round made possible by $550 million Schumer helped secure in the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bill. These grants are on top of the historic funding he was able to deliver through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), which provided $7.17 billion for remote learning. Today’s investment is also on top of the historic federal funding secured in the Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law which included a record $65 billion for the expansion of high-speed internet to connect the unserved, make internet affordable, and provide resources for digital literacy.