$341 Million Round III Investment Provides Last Mile Funding to Ensure High-Speed Internet Access for Every New Yorker
Building on Progress Achieved in Rounds I and II, Round III Will Provide Over 122,000 Homes and Locations Across New York with High-Speed Internet Access
Regional Round III Awards and Investments Are Available Here
On January 31st , Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced Round III of the nation-leading New NY Broadband program – providing the last mile funding to ensure high-speed internet access for all New Yorkers. The $209.7 million Round III awards will provide 122,285 homes, businesses and community institutions across the state with access to high-speed Internet, driving in aggregate more than $341.8 million of public/private broadband investment. This represents the third and final round of the program and the completion of the Governor’s promise to connect all New Yorkers to high-speed Internet for the first time in state history. Since the program’s launch in 2015, Governor Cuomo has secured high-speed Internet upgrades for approximately 2.42 million locations statewide. These latest awards through Round III of the New NY Broadband Program will close the final gap and bring high-speed broadband to all New Yorkers in every corner of the state.
Audio of the event is available here.
A transcript of Governor Cuomo’s remarks is available below.
Thank you. Thank you very much. It’s my pleasure to be here today. First, Mr. Garry Douglas, he joined the Regional Economic Development Council right from the beginning and he said, “You know I’m a busy guy, how much time do you need?” I said, “Garry, no more than one year.” That was seven years ago. So let’s give him a big round of applause for all his good work.
My colleague, my friend, a woman who inspires me and so many people who work in Albany, Senator Betty Little. It’s a pleasure to be with her. Billy Jones, who is doing just a great, great job down in the legislature, you should be proud of him. Let’s give him a round of applause. Dan Stec, assemblyman, is here, give him a round of applause. Ray DiPasquale, you’re doing a great job, you make me proud to be an Italian. Ray just showed me a little note he had from my father, 1984, almost made me cry, but you’re doing beautiful work here. Congratulations on that Advanced Manufacturing center, that is about the future. Ray DiPasquale. Thank you for what you do. And to the Mayor and the DA and the Supervisor and my team who is here, we have the housing commissioner, the environmental commissioner, we have every commissioner you could name, who are here today. Let’s give them a round of applause, thank them for coming up.
Garry is right. I love the North Country. I just hope you don’t take it for granted because you’re here all the time. But it is a special place, not just in the state, it is a special place on the globe. It really is. I’ve been coming up since I was a relatively young fellow. My father was Governor, he was always working, working, working, my father, you couldn’t get him away from the desk. But I used to take my brother Chris and we would come up all the time. Chris took a different path in life, a little bit of a downturn. He became a reporter. All due respect, all due respect. He’s a character, he’s on CNN. He tells everybody it stands for Cuomo News Network. Just started a new show at night called Cuomo Primetime, which I believe is a trademark infringement because I am Cuomo. And when it just says Cuomo Primetime, that is misleading. And also he’s costing me a lot of votes because he offends everybody – Democrats, Republicans, Independents – it doesn’t matter. No, it’s a problem. And to sue my brother for trademark infringement is a problem because my mother gets mad. So it’s a conundrum. He’s a very competitive guy, my brother. I was thinking about it on the way up. We come up one time for a fishing trip on Saranac and there has to be a competition because otherwise you’re not a Cuomo. So we had a competition, who can catch the most fish in an hour? He’s at the front of the boat, I’m at the back of the boat, it’s a small boat. Very, very close on who catches the most fish. We’re basically tied. He’s in the front, he goes to cast, and he goes to cast – my brother is from the school of the bigger the bait, the bigger the fish, so he has a big lure, metal, silver spoon, and he goes to cast and he brings the rod back. And the lure flies, hits me right in the head. Hit me so hard, knocks me to the bottom of the boat. I open my eyes in a haze about five minutes later. He says, I caught two more fish, I won, competition is over. I said, “Those fish do not count! You cannot knock out the opponent in a fishing tournament and then claim victory!” But he did. He did. So I’ve been coming up for a long time and it’s been beautiful with my girls. I sneak out whenever I can, sometimes when it just gets too overbearing in Albany, which Billy and Dan and Betty will tell you, can get very intense when you’re trying to get the budget done, you’re trying to get a negotiation. So I’ll say, I’m going to take a little break. I take a break and whenever I can I come up just because it’s so beautiful and the energy and the light and it’s the magic of the North Country. It’s really special. So God bless you. Whenever I can, I’m up and anything I can ever do to help, I will help.
The North Country, they also give you that blunt candor, in the North Country. When I first became Governor, I said to somebody, “well, how do you get treated by the state government in Albany?” He said, “Let me put it this way. We get better treated by Canada than we do Albany.” And there was something to that – a sense that the North Country was left behind, that the North Country was not getting the attention it deserved. In truth, it wasn’t just the North Country. It was basically all across upstate New York. There’s a practical dynamic for it. Most of the legislature is from Downstate NY. NYC and Long Island. That’s probably 75 percent of the legislature. And the legislature’s instinct is to bring home bacon and deliver services for their district. So, you have all that energy focused on downstate, and you have very little focused on upstate and over the years, and you have no doubt that downstate got more attention. Upstate got less attention, and there’s also no doubt that upstate NY needed more help, because the economy in upstate NY was more fragile that in had been for years. Our challenge was to reverse that dynamic. And day 1 when I came in I said there’s been a basic inequity in what we had done.
I get the politics. I get the power of downstate but the need is in upstate. And we are one state at the end of the day. So the better upstate does and the better the upstate economy, the better the economy for downstate, but that was an entire culture shift we had to go through. And we went at it a number of different ways. We do something called the Adirondack Challenge once a year, which many of you have been to, which does a lot of things for us: it drives tourism, gets the message out about the Adirondacks and especially the market downstate. The more we tell the story, the more tourism goes up. And we have a rafting race in the Adirondack Challenge, which I love. Not as competitive as my brother, I would not try to kill the opponent the way my brother didmaybe, but it depends what it is. The Adirondack Challenge we get to have a rafting race, which I love. I am undefeated in the rafting race. Oh yeah, and some people get very annoyed. Dan Stec is here. You see when Dan Stec gives me trouble in the newspaper. That’s not politics. That’s because I beat his heinie every year in the rafting trip. And he doesn’t get it. He comes with another 4 guys his size. And I say Dan, and it is called the weight to power ration. That’s what wins the day and you’re not going to win if the raft is so heavy that you’re skidding across the bottom down the entire river. And, by the way, you’re not going to win, because the timekeeper works for me, Dan. But we what we also did during that we invite the downstate legislators to come up and see the North Country.
Many of them have never been here before and that really has empowered them Betty and Dan and Billy and your representatives because if you represent the Bronx you have more people in two blocks than Betty has in 100 miles. So it’s a total different orientation and I think it even worked on that level. And there has been a shift in the legislature and they get it and they get it now. And the whole one state mentality has made a difference. To help upstate what did we have to do? We had to reduce taxes? Because the first economy that gets hurt by the high taxes is upstate NY. It is the 1st economy that got hurt and it got hurt for many, many years because this state kept raising taxes raising taxes raising taxes. You saw businesses leave, you saw young people leave, and from a business attraction point of view, this was the last place they were going to come. So you had to reduce taxes. How do you reduce taxes? To reduce taxes, you have to reduce spending. It’s that easy. It’s how do you lose weight? Eat less. That’s the whole family. Exercise more would be nice, but even if you just eat less. The formula is easy but it’s hard to do. To tell the state legislature to spend less money is very, very hard. But we had to because we were spending too much money, we were raising taxes too high and we have brought a fiscal discipline to this state that it never had. Our spending has been 2 percent or under for seven years. That has been a dramatic shift with the past. We spend less per year than any administration, any state government in modern political history. How can that be? You’re thinking he’s a democrat. Those democrats always like to spend money. That’s not nice, first of all. Stereotypical. There are some democrats who can count. Our spending rate has been 1.4 percent over seven years. Ok? George Pataki, 12 years, republican conservative, 5.2 percent.
My father, God rest his soul, 6.9, you carry 7.9. Nelson Rockefeller, Republican, did a lot of good work for the State. Built a lot, the SUNY system, etcetera, but, incurred a lot of debt. 11 percent more every year. That’s why the taxes were going up. When you spend 11 percent more, you have to raise taxes 11 percent more. You spend 6.9 percent more; you have to raise taxes 6.9 percent more. You get that spending down, you take in fewer calories, good things are going to happen. It’s discipline. It’s exercise, but good things are going to happen.
You keep the spending down low, now you can reduce taxes. We cut taxes all across the board. Everybody in New York pays a lower tax rate today than they did seven years ago. Every person, from the richest to the bottom end, every rate is down lower. Middle class, up to $300,000, which is a big middle class, lowest rate since 1947. Corporate taxes, lowest rate since 1968. So we dramatically changed the economic context of New York. We then did something else, where we said we have to invest in Upstate New York. It takes money to make money. To bring businesses to a state now, you don’t just call and request. Every state offers an incentive package. It’s a competition. They want to come to your state, they call you up and say, well California offered me this, what can you offer me? And it literally is like a bidding war among the states and if you’re not bidding, you’re not in the game.
So we started Regional Economic Development Councils, one for each region. Meaning, to make the North Country economy work is a little different than the Western New York economy, is a little different than Long Island. That’s what Garry and Tony Collins have headed and they’ve done a great job. And then we invested more money in Upstate New York than any State administration ever invested in Upstate New York. $36 billion in economic investment to bring in jobs. Today New York State has over eight million jobs. Highest number of private sector jobs in the history of the State of New York. And that’s what it’s about. And it’s not just that the jobs are coming and the economy is growing. Unemployment is down from 8.3 to 4.6, but it’s down all across the state. If I showed you this map 15 years ago, you would have seen New York City doing well, and Upstate doing poorly. Now you see, because we’re investing in Upstate New York, unemployment is coming down all across the state and the economic success is a shared success all across the state. The investments go all across Upstate New York.
North Country, we’ve invested $3.4 billion and Garry went through the list, but from Norsk to Bombardier, infrastructure, the Plattsburgh International Airport we’re excited about. Plattsburgh won that DRI, Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, congratulations. Watertown won a Downtown Revitalization grant. We’re investing in workforce development right here. Tourism, tourism, tourism. But we’ve also conserved more land than has been conserved in a hundred years, right? Preserve the natural asset, the beauty, but people have to eat, and people have to work, so you also have to have development and have that right mix. Which I think we’ve done well on the Boreas pond track which took a lot of work and Commissioner Basil Seggos is here and he did a great job. I’d like to give him a round of applause. But investing in Whiteface, Gore, Belleayre, make them state-of-the-art facilities. There is no reason why anyone from the New York City region should go to ski in Vermont or Massachusetts or any other place than Upstate New York and the North Country. We’ve invested in tourism, which is going great guns. We just had to tell the story and we have told the story. The tourism industry is now over a billion-dollar industry in the North Country believe it or not and we’re going to keep growing that because that’s just good jobs and it’s good for the soul.
And then as Garry said, one of the first requests they made was that we get high-speed internet into the North Country. Now I’ll tell you the truth, when they first asked me this, my wise guy response was going to be, I need a small nose, there’s nothing I can do about that either. Internet access is not really a function of the State. It’s a private market function. You have internet companies and they run internet where they can make money. So they run internet in densely populated areas. They do cities, they do suburban communities, because with one mile of line, they get x customers to go to rural parts of the state – it’s just not economic. So they didn’t go. Yeah. But now, because internet really is the infrastructure of tomorrow, you put those places at a serious disadvantage, right? Places at one time that didn’t have a road or a highway, you couldn’t get there, there’s no economy there.
Today you need high speed internet if you’re going to compete. I don’t care if somebody’s hiking or if somebody’s going to a hotel, there is no one that doesn’t have to check in with someone or check in with work, and they expect it now. It’s just the way of doing business. But how does the State get involved in getting these private sector companies to go to places that were not economically feasible for these companies. That was the challenge. And we said as a goal that we were going to have 100 percent coverage because it is the infrastructure of tomorrow. And if you don’t have high speed internet, it is going to stunt the growth of those areas. I have no doubt about it. It’s essential to competing – whatever business you are in. It also makes a difference in everyday life. Downloading an MRI with no high speed – 14 minutes to download an MRI. High speed – literally in a matter of seconds. A child wants to download a textbook; without high speed internet, it’s a full day. With high speed internet, it’s literally a couple of minutes.
So, 2015 we launched the broadband initiative and we said we were going to set out to work with these private companies to find a way to get them to cover areas they didn’t’ want to cover. At that point, we had coverage for 70 percent of the homes. You see the map: they’re all the densely populated areas. The 30 percent of the state that was less populated didn’t have it. We have done three rounds: first round we invested $75 million and we went out to bid to those companies, and we said we understand that you don’t think it’s economic, the state will subsidize the non-competitive nature and then we bid among the companies to see who would give us the best price. We invested $75 million, we’ve expanded access to 97 percent. Round two, we got to 98 percent of New Yorkers. The North Country was the hardest area to do because it has the least density, the least existing infrastructure, and what they call ‘the last mile’ was the most difficult to reach – the last home – and the challenge was the North Country and some parts of the Southern Tier. We are now round three, and that takes us to 99.9 percent of New Yorkers. When we started this program just a few years ago, 20 percent of the North Country had internet access. 20 percent had internet access. Round one it went to 80 percent, round two went to 86 percent, now with round three: 100 percent internet access in the North Country.
This is the first state in the United States of America to have 100 percent internet access for the entire state, and I think that’s going to be an incentive for companies all across the world to come to New York. The grantees in this third round, you see, are all across the state covering the uncovered areas. The total investment in the North Country is going to be $100 million. As I mentioned, you get the most money from any of the other regions. It doesn’t mean I necessarily love you more, although I may, but it doesn’t mean that there. It is because the North Country was harder to cover, and that’s why the state had to invest more to get that coverage. But we are proud of it, and the better the North Country does, the better that Upstate does, the better the state as a whole does. These are the actual grantees who are going to be running the actual internet, literally, from pole to home. You see, we had quite a number of companies that we’re contracting with because we want to get it done quickly, so we don’t want to go to just one or two companies and then they say they’re overwhelmed. So we divided it into geographic segments and we have plenty of companies working so it’ll happen quickly. 99.9 will have high speed access, which is defined as 100 megabits by the State of New York, which is at the high end of what high-speed is defined as. So our definition of high speed is really very high speed – surprise, surprise. In total, it’s been a $1 billion investment to get this done but it is really an investment in the state and we’re going to get our money back.
Two other quick issues I want to talk to you about while I’m here. One is called SALT. Do you know what SALT is? Something you put on food. What else is SALT? SALT is state and local tax deductions. This is a real issue that we’re going to have to deal with. Federal government passes a tax bill; President signs it in December. It cut taxes. When government cuts taxes, they have to find revenues to finance it, because government has to finance a tax cut. One of the things they did in that tax bill is they ended the deductibility of state and local taxes.
Now it’s a mouthful so people really haven’t fully appreciated what it means. This is what it means. You make 100 dollars, you pay six dollars in property tax, you pay four dollars in state income tax, that’s ten dollars. So your take home is 90 dollars. Since 1913, when the income tax first started, the federal government then taxed you on 90 dollars. What this bill did was it said “we’re not taxing you on 90, we’re taxing you on 100.” It’s the first double taxation in the history of the country. They are taxing what you paid in property tax. And they’re taxing what you paid in income tax.
This raised money for the federal government. It devastates 12 states. The 12 states are what they would call the high-spending states. California, New York, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut. We have worked phenomenally hard to get our property taxes down, and our income taxes down. You’ve seen what we’ve done with that 2% fiscal discipline. We have a 2% property tax cap on local governments. Which made them furious with me. But property taxes used to go up six, seven, eight percent every year. It was madness. So we showed discipline there too. We have a 2 percent property tax cap. This raises everybody’s property tax and income tax 25 percent like that. Overnight. All those years of that 2 percent cap, all that fiscal discipline, your income taxes and your property taxes just went up 25 percent.
We can’t handle that in New York. It’s the exact opposite of what we’ve been doing. We’re trying to get taxes down lower, this federal bill raised them higher than they were seven years ago. And from a competitiveness point of view, it makes us have a structural disadvantage because it only hits 12 states. All the other states got a tax cut. So we’re doing everything we can to undo this. We’re working to repeal it; we are working with other states to actually bring in action that it is unconstitutional. It is the first time there’s been double taxation. Abraham Lincoln started the first income tax on the states, and said that it should be deducted before the federal government takes its share. It also happened to be very partisan. When you look at the 12 states, they are predominately Democratic states. But as I said to anyone who would listen to me in Washington, just because my state is predominately Democrat, doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of Republicans, and you’re raising taxes on Democrats, Republicans, Independents, tall people, short people, it’s everybody.
So we’re doing everything we can to change it. One of the things we’re doing, which Betty, and Dan, and Bill are going to be working on, I proposed something called the Taxpayer Protection Act. Which basically says, “you want to tax our current tax code, fine. We’ll change our tax code. You launch a missile, aimed at New York, fine. We’re going to move out of the way.” We change the tax code from an income tax to a payroll tax. Why? Payroll taxes are still deductible. Income taxes aren’t. Now it’s a major administrative shift, but it’s revenue-neutral. What is says basically is right now, you get a check from the employer and you pay taxes on the income. Payroll tax says the employer pays the tax on your income. But the employer can fully deduct it. It’s a business expense. So it doesn’t cost businesses anything, but it saves you the taxes.
Property taxes, we’re trying to move to a structure where we set up charitable entities that are run by the local government, so the local government gets the funding from the property taxes, but the person who pays it gets a charitable deduction. Which means you get a deduction for the property taxes. Obviously this is complicated, and it’s a lot of work, but we cannot have a 25 percent increase in our income taxes and our property taxes.
It will undo all the good work we’ve done and it’ll make us much less competitive. I feel good about it, that we’ll make a difference. Some people say well there’s a $10,000 cap in the bill, meaning you can still deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes or income taxes. And a lot of people’s property taxes are below $10,000. Yeah. But a lot of people’s property taxes are above $10,000. And the people who are above tend to be wealthier people, tend to be business owners, we don’t want them to leave. Because we’ve gone through that cycle. Businesses leave, wealthy people leave and that tax burden then falls on everybody else. It’s not like the tax burden goes away. Those are the people who actually use the fewest services. They move out of town, your taxes go up because you have to pick up your proportionate share. So it’s the major issue for us this year on the legislative agenda.
Another critical issue is the Underwood Estates. We just visited them on the way here, 70 residences have been damaged. And they’ve been badly damaged. We have a problem all across the state, it’s all across the Northeast of ice jams. And ice jams are dangerous, they start to break up, they clog a certain part of the river and the water backs up and floods everything behind it. We have it in Thurman on the 418 Bridge. We have it on the Salmon River and Underwood Estates on the Saranac River, same thing. Ice jam clogged at a curve, the water backed up and basically destroyed 70 homes. The homes are not now eligible for any recovery by the state. And they’re not eligible for federal recovery because they’re below the threshold for federal recovery. But is New York and we are neighbors and we’re community and we’re family at the end of the day. And we have all gone through these storms from one end of the state to the other. I don’t know if it’s climate change or things falling off the podium, I don’t know what it is. But, or maybe mother nature is having a nervous breakdown but we are seeing weather like we’ve never seen before. And one of the beautiful things about this state, I don’t care upstate, downstate, democrat, republican, when a place is in need, the entire state is there as one. It responds like the family would respond.
Whether it was Hurricane Sandy on Long Island or seven feet of snow in Buffalo, nobody has ever given me a problem when I’ve gone to the Legislature and I’ve said look, these people need help. It’s no fault of their own. And these 70 residences need help, so I don’t care that it doesn’t fit into a state program. I don’t care that it doesn’t fit into a federal program. We’re going to reimburse people for their losses. There are 70 homes, we’re going to make $7 million available, up to $100,000 per home. I don’t think they’ll even get to that level per home but they were damaged, they’re wet, once a home gets wet and there is water in the fiberglass, mold is there the next day and that’s unhealthy and it’s dangerous. So we want to do it right, we’re also going to provide three-month rental assistance for the families where the state will pay the rent while they’re getting the construction done or they’re getting a new home etcetera. There’s also a berm that was damaged and that’s how the water came over. If the owner can figure out a way to keep the Army Corps of Engineers out of the approval process, not that I don’t love the work, I love working with the Army Corps of Engineers. I love it. It’s so much fun. But if you can keep it just within state control, Basil Seggos Commissioner says he’ll get it approved in 14 days and give him a round of applause. And if it’s not done in 14 days his home number is 518-474
Look, it’s very simple, what Betty does and Billy does and Dan does and what I do and all the other elected officials, you have an opportunity when you’re in government. And the opportunity is very simple. You have an opportunity to help people. And not just issue a press release about helping people or have discussions and debates about helping people. You can really make a difference in people’s lives. And that’s what makes public service worth all the baloney that you have to take. And I pride myself as Governor on actually getting things done that actually make a real difference in people’s lives. 100 percent broadband coverage is going to fundamentally change the economy of the North Country. Fundamentally. Keeping taxes down is going to fundamentally change our competitiveness. And getting 70 of our neighbors the help they need when they need it, that’s what community and caring and love is all about.