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In this month’s edition of the G/FL Economic Recovery Series, we are featuring a number of topics related to broadband internet service. In addition to broadband, we also highlight a number of newly-announced funding opportunities and some recent news of note in the region. As always, please feel free to share this newsletter with anyone you feel is interested (see signup link at the bottom of this page). 
Economic Recovery Series: Broadband
Availability of and access to reliable high-speed internet service has been a major hurdle for many communities across the Genesee/Finger Lakes Region. These issues have only become more apparent since the start of the pandemic. Vulnerable communities continue to feel the strain of insufficient internet service as the digital divide continues to grow. The implications of the digital divide are far reaching, impacting everything from education and workforce development to business attraction and retention.  
The Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council is contemplating ways to assist our counties in developing broadband programs that will directly improve the quality of life of their constituents. The goal of our initial efforts is to ensure each county has a complete understanding of the present gaps and adoption issues related to broadband and to help create feasible solutions to fill those gaps. G/FLRPC’s work would lay a foundation for our region to leverage significant broadband funding expected to be available in the near term, including funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. 
To that end, below is a collection of example broadband solutions, anticipated funding opportunities, recent announcements, and other data. 
White Paper: If We Build It, Will They Come? Lessons from Open-Access, Middle Mile Networks
The Benton Institute is a non-profit organization committed to ensuring access to competitive, high-performance broadband for everyone, regardless of location or economic status. In December 2020, the Institute published a study examining the issues of deployment and competition that often hamstring the construction of the new broadband networks. The study offers one feasible solution to this issue: the construction of open-access, middle-mile networks. 
“Open-access” networks allow for any broadband provider to access the fiber infrastructure. “Middle-mile” bridges the larger internet backbone to community staple “connection points” like schools, hospitals, etc. From there, internet infrastructure is built out to homes in the “last mile.” Open-access middle mile networks can mitigage the high cost of traditional internet build-outs, incentivizing providers to build out last mile connections to homes much more quickly. In the G/FL region, Ontario County has built a similar dark fiber ring that serves this purpose. 
Click on the picture to the right to read the full Benton Institute Study. 
Broadband Funding Opportunities
Several funding programs are currently available or in the pipeline that provide significant capital for broadband initiatives. Currently these programs include the American Rescue Plan, the Northern Border Regional Commission, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s BroadbandUSA infrastructure grant program. G/FLRPC is actively engaging with each of these programs and will continue to update our communities with the latest information as it is released. 
American Rescue Plan
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) is a $1.9 trillion federal stimulus plan designed to alleviate the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of that figure, $362 billion will be distributed to state and local governments to fast-track economic recovery, a portion of which can be used for broadband infrastructure investments. The New York State Association of Counties has published a summary of the ARP, including the funding allocations by municipality.  
Northern Border Regional Commission
The Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) State Economic & Infrastructure Development Investment Program provides federal funds for critical economic and community development projects throughout the northeast. Full application materials have been released and are available by clicking the map. 
G/FLRPC has submitted a Letter of Interest to the NBRC program, proposing a comprehensive broadband assessment for certain counties within the G/FL region. The assessment will include an inventory of broadband assets and accessibility, a survey to “ground-truth” FCC and provider claims about current broadband availability, and a business plan to address gaps in service.  
FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit
This program will provide direct benefits to eligible households of up to $50 per month toward broadband service and up to $75 per month for households on tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount towards the purchase price of a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from a participating provider.  
The program has been approved by the FCC, but the official start date of the program has not yet been announced. For details on program eligibility and future updates on the timeline of the program, please click the picture. 

Broadband Feedback Requested - USDA ReConnect & FCC
USDA ReConnect
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now accepting feedback on a final rule that would simplify program requirements to make more companies eligible to participate in its Broadband ReConnect program. The rule will eliminate paperwork requirements and shorten the application process. The anticipated changes are expected to lower barriers to entry and thus encourage greater competition. The USDA will be accepting comments through April 27th, 2021.

For more information and to submit comments, please click the image.
FCC Broadband
For the first time ever, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is soliciting feedback directly from consumers on broadband availability and service quality. The FCC creates coverage maps using self-reported data from internet service providers. These maps have been controversial for many years, as the accuracy of the data is constantly called into question. Therefore, the FCC is requesting feedback from the public to create a more accurate and specific reporting tool.  
Please click the image to access the comment form. 
Other Funding Opportunities
2020 CDBG-CV Cares Act Funding
New York State Homes & Community Renewal (HCR) has announced the opening of the NYS Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG)-CV CARE Act applications. This program provides funding to eligible communities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Key Facts: 
  • Applications accepted: Rolling basis until Friday, August 27, 2021 or until funding is exhausted. 
  • Eligibility and award ranges: 
  • Towns, cities, and villages with populations of <50,000 ($100,000 - $500,000) 
  • Counties with unincorporated population of <200,000 ($100,000 - $1,000,000)

General Activity Areas: 
  • Supporting small businesses  
  • Improving air quality in public facilities  
  • Environmental improvements in housing for safe shelter 
  • Conversion of underutilized buildings for affordable housing 
  • Public services 
Round 18 Farmland Protection and Implementation Grants (FPIG) Program - Conservation Easement Projects
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has announced the availability of funds for the Round 18 FPIG program. The program intends to fund the implementation of farmland protection activities that maintain the economic viability of the State’s agricultural industry.  
Funds are available to county agricultural and farmland protection boards, municipalities that have a farmland protection plan in place, not-for-profit conservation organizations, and soil and water conservation districts to assist in implementing an agricultural or farmland protection plan.  
USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers
The USDA announced the establishment of new programs and efforts to provide financial assistance to farmers, ranchers, and producers that have been adversely impacted by the pandemic. The USDA will dedicate at least $6 billion toward new programming that will reach a broader set of producers. Existing programs, including the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), will now fall within the new initiative and will be refined to better address the needs of producers.  

For more information, please click the image.
Other News
Spring Local Government Workshop
G/FLRPC will be hosting the Spring 2021 Local Government Workshop online. Sessions will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting April 15 and concluding May 18. All sessions start at 11:30AM and run between one and two hours unless otherwise noted.

Topics include:
  • Planning Board Overview
  • Clean Energy Communities
  • Solar Energy Facility Planning and Siting Invasive Plants
  • Recognizing Indigenous People in Planning and Land Use
  • New York’s Quirky System of Local Government
  • Hot Topics in Planning

All sessions take place online via video conference (Zoom)
Sessions are free but registration is required.
Each session is individually ticketed. You will need to sign up for each session you wish to attend.
All sessions start at 11:30AM unless otherwise noted. Session length ranges from one and two and half hours; please note the schedule.
Questions? Email Jason Haremza at [email protected] or text/call 585-295-3820
Many thanks to our partners: Native American Cultural Center, the National Park Service, New York State Department of State, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Wendel, and Barton and Loguidice

Addressing Capital Access in 2021
One component of the American Rescue Plan, the $10 billion State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), is likely to provide over $400 million to New York State to fund capital access initiatives supporting small businesses. SSBCI is a re-boot of a U.S. Treasury program first authorized in 2010 to accelerate small business lending during the Great Recession. States will design programs to address specific gaps in regional capital markets.

We will continue to update you on the SSBCI program as details become available.
2021 Municipal Bootcamp Program
This is a free monthly training program to assist local governments, town officials, and planning and zoning boards. In total, the program will include 10 hours of remote training designed to provide a comprehensive education that encompasses all aspects of municipal governance. Each program in the series will be provided remotely on the fourth Thursday of each month with subject matter experts. Topics will be lively, useful and—potentially as important—qualify for the education requirements for members of Planning Boards and Zoning Boards of Appeals.  
The upcoming Session 4: What Not To Say, and What to Really Not To Do will present the regulations, protections, and trainings on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. This session will enable attendees to stay in the know on this issue and meet the annual Sexual Harassment Prevention training requirement. This session is scheduled for Thursday April 22th, 2021 from 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm.  
For more information on the municipal bootcamp, upcoming topics, and to register, please click the button below. 
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