Even though we might think of New York City as connected, where residents may soon get their Internet from former payphone booths, it’s easy to forget that there’s a lot more to the Empire State than Gotham. Many in the state, including some in the city, don’t have access to high-speed Internet. But if Governor Cuomo gets his way, that’s about to change. On January 16, his administration announced the New NY Broadband Program, designed to provide high-speed Internet to every resident in the state by 2019.

The Goal

The program seeks to provide all but the most remote corners of the state with Internet speeds of at least 100 Mbps. A speed of 25 Mbps is specified for those remote areas, but even that must be scalable to 100. The state’s current minimum speed standard is 6 Mbps, but over one million residents and 4,000 businesses don’t have access to those speeds at the moment. More than five million residents and 55,000 businesses lack 25 Mbps access. And this map shows how limited availability of 100 Mbps is across the state.

BroadbandMap

The Plan

Reaching the program’s goals won’t be cheap, so it calls for $500 million in state funding to go to private sector Internet providers. Companies seeking that money will have to provide matching funds; although it isn’t clear yet exactly how that will work, it does move the program’s total funding above $1 billion. All bidders will have to meet the target speeds, and priority will go to those promising the lowest cost.

Each of the state’s 11 Regional Economic Development Councils will provide support to the state by measuring local residential and business demand, identifying unserved and underserved areas, and outlining the most cost-effective technologies to provide service to their individual communities based on their individual needs.

New NY Broadband also wants to make it easier for the private sector to build these new networks. It’s utilizing 500 miles of state-owned fiber along the New York State Thruway, and looking at ways to reduce the red tape for all the necessary permits.

The Motivation

“Access to high-speed internet is critical to ensuring that all New Yorkers can reach their full potential in today’s technology-driven world,” Governor Cuomo said. “We’re launching the largest state broadband investment in the nation in order to make that goal a reality.”

The governor’s Press Office said that high-speed Internet is critical for job creation, generating 20 percent of all new jobs, and 30 percent of jobs among businesses with under 20 employees. And the threshold for attracting new businesses to create those jobs is 100 Mbps.

The End Result

Residents of other states might not pay much attention to New York’s plan, but the state leaders will. New York isn’t the only state trying to keep its existing businesses, or lure new ones. It’s not crazy to think that New NY Broadband could prompt similar programs in other states, states that don’t want to be less competitive than their neighbors.

They say “a New York minute” only lasts an instant because everything happens faster in the city. Soon, it may be the whole state, and it just might be a New York megabyte.

Image By Eric/Flikr