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Central New York leaders push to renew affordable connectivity program

Timothy Vollmer

Local and federal leaders are taking action to ensure affordable broadband internet after the federal Affordable Connectivity Program expired.

Jenn Tifft, director of strategic initiatives for the city of Syracuse, said the city got word from New York state that it has been offered a nearly $11 million grant.

"It's a really, I think, a bold move for cities," Tifft said. "But more and more cities are actually reaching out to us to ask us not just in New York state, but in all other parts of the country, too, about how we undertook this and what it means for communities that need access to this vital service."

The city's Surge Link program is helping on a local level but central New York's elected officials in Congress are pushing to renew the Affordable Connectivity Program. In the Senate, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is backing the Secure and Affordable Broadband Extension Act she said would replenish the ACP with $6 billion in additional funding.

"It seems like a lot of money but I think it's because it's essentially like a utility," Gillibrand said. "And so if you need access to it, nobody can afford it. And we should be investing in it in the same way we invested in making sure people have telephone service, water service, electricity service. So that's how we make it more affordable for everybody."

In the House of Representatives, Republican Congressman Brandon Williams is pushing to pass the Affordable Connectivity Program Improvement and Extension Act of 2024 saying the ACP is a lifeline and noting one in four households in his district benefit from the program.

“Local leaders across my district have been steadfast in their advocacy for this vital program, and for good reason,” Williams said. “For millions across America, the ACP is a lifeline that enables them to work, study, and communicate online. We must act now to make sure they can continue to do so.”

Syracuse Common Councilors were set to approve the state grant and add an additional $1.4 million in ARPA funding for the Surge Link Program during its Monday meeting but the items were held. Councilor Patrona Jones-Rowser told WRVO she wants the city to work through a plan to get more city residents signed up for the Surge Link broadband service.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.