New York State has been investing in digital infrastructure to improve access to high-speed, reliable and affordable broadband within the State. New York State’s ConnectALL Office (CAO) is managing two programs, the Affordable Housing Connectivity Program (AHCP) and the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, which are intended to enhance broadband accessibility in New York. The AHCP will soon release a Request for Applications directed at internet service providers (ISPs) and other entities with broadband deployment experience. ConnectALL recently published New York State’s Five-Year Action Plan ( “Plan”), a requirement of the BEAD Program, that describes New York’s goals and priorities and that will serve as a “comprehensive needs assessment” that will inform New York’s Initial Proposal.1
In August 2023, New York submitted its Plan to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), as required under the BEAD Program. Empire State Development recently released the Plan to the public.2 The Plan included an overview of ConnectALL’s work so far, New York’s digital infrastructure objectives and the current state of digital infrastructure in New York, as well as future action. CAO expects to submit its Initial Proposal to NTIA in December 2023.
CAO estimated that the total deployment cost of fiber optic infrastructure to the estimated 114,377 addresses not already covered would be $1.947 billion, and $2.291 billion if 35,012 underserved locations are included in that calculation. These estimates are greater than NTIA’s allocation of $664,618,251.49 from the BEAD Program.3 Pursuant to a report by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), 97.47% of New York’s population has access to at least two wired or fixed wireless ISPs, at least one of which has high-speed internet service. Only 2.46% of locations in the state are unserved and less than 1% are underserved. Close to one million New York households (13.1%) do not subscribe to a fixed broadband service. Vulnerable populations, such as low-income households and people with language barriers, are less likely to subscribe to service.4 Although New York has a relatively high rate of internet access, 26 of New York’s 62 counties have served percentages less than 95% and, of those, 12 have served percentages of less than 90%.5 High-speed broadband remains unavailable to many New Yorkers in predominantly rural areas. In some low-density geographic areas, the cost of constructing broadband infrastructure makes it unfeasible for some residents to afford access, which CAO will attempt to overcome by using BEAD funds strategically.6
The Plan stated that the BEAD program prioritizes deployment in the following order: 1) connecting all unserved locations in the State, 2) connecting all underserved locations in the State, and 3) delivering symmetrical gigabit connections to certain community anchor institutions that do not currently have that level of service. However, ConnectALL may incorporate additional factors into how it defines project areas, evaluates proposals and implements complementary activities.7 New York has created its own list of unserved locations, which differs from the maps published by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). CAO wrote that it plans to “make multiple modifications to the FCC dataset to present an accurate set of unserved locations to potential subgrantees” which it will describe further in its Initial Proposal.8 CAO also acknowledged regulatory matters that could affect deployment and noted that CAO will work the PSC and other state agencies to streamline make-ready and pole-replacement processes for new attachments, and facilitate underground installation where appropriate.9
Additional potential obstacles noted by CAO include employment, industry participation, supply chain issues and material availability.. CAO estimated that planned broadband infrastructure investment will create at least 4,000 one-time jobs related to broadband deployment and at least 730 permanent, ongoing jobs. CAO expects that some of the roles with the highest demand will be construction laborers, electricians, and telecommunications installers and repairers.10 Projected challenges relating to the supply chain may relate to Build America Buy America provisions, which do not allow certain foreign-made products. Finally, CAO wrote that it is experienced in working with ISPs and committed to attracting new market entrants. CAO acknowledge a need to establish “scoring criteria and project areas that encourage participation from the entire pool of potential subgrantees.”11
CAO wrote that it will use various strategies to maximize the impact of BEAD funding in New York. Some of these strategies include encouraging public-private partnership, prioritizing affordability of service, enforcing good workforce practices and applying a digital equity framework across all programs. CAO is developing a middle-class affordability plan that it will include in its Initial and Final Proposals, and it anticipates using strategies including promoting the ACP, ISP competition and weighting subgrantee evaluation criteria related to affordability in its plan. In regard to good workforce practices, CAO wrote that it will require BEAD subgrantees to demonstrate a history of compliance with federal and state labor and employment laws. Finally, CAO stated that it is also leading the State’s planning efforts for the Digital Equity Programs and will ensure alignment between the two.12
The Affordable Housing Connectivity Program (AHCP) is an infrastructure initiative intended to upgrade in-unit broadband infrastructure for low-income, affordable housing residents who currently have unreliable, unaffordable or no internet service options in their homes, at no cost to property owners. The program is intended to attract ISPs to often-overlooked affordable housing properties so that tenants may access affordable, high-quality home internet service. After the upgrades, residents will have access to digital equity and device support services through ISPs, community-based organizations, property managers and owners. CAO will soon publish the AHCP Request for Applications, which CAO encourages ISPs and other entities with broadband deployment experience to respond to.13 CAO will begin to review applications on a rolling basis in November 2023 with award rounds every other month starting in December 2023.
Besides building owners, grantees for funding under this program may be ISPs, broadband infrastructure builders or broadband infrastructure owners (“Grantees”). If CAO makes a preliminary award to a Grantee, CAO will then execute individual agreements between grantees with and between grantees and property owners to ensure quality and affordability standards are met at each property. Eligible uses of grants include fiber connections to property premises such as last-mile infrastructure and drops to a building, or in-building equipment and wiring retrofits. AHCP-funded projects must facilitate open-access connectivity and include a plan for open-access broadband infrastructure as part of their grantee agreements.14 ISPs seeking grants will be required to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).15
1 Five-Year Action Plan: Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, ConnectALL, 1 (Sept. 2023), https://broadband.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2023/09/nys-bead-5-year-action-plan.pdf.
2 See id.
3 Id. at 4, 6.
4 Id. at 10.
5 Id. at 58.
6 Id. at 59.
7 Id. at 4.
8 Id. at 68.
9 Id. at 71.
11 Id. at 73.
12 Id. at 83-84.
13 See ConnectALL, Affordable Housing Connectivity Program, ConnectALL, https://broadband.ny.gov/affordable-housing-connectivity-program (last visited October 10, 2023).
14 ConnectALL, Affordable Housing Connectivity Program: Roles and Responsibilities – Grantees, https://broadband.ny.gov/ahcp-grantee-roles-and-responsibilities (docx).
15 ConnectALL, Grant Program Guidelines: New York State’s Affordable Housing Connectivity Program (AHCP), https://broadband.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2023/09/ahcp-grant-program-guidelines_2.pdf.