Mayor Walsh Opens Enrollment for Community Broadband Pilot Program
Published on October 02, 2023
Surge LinkTM will deploy American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and innovative technology to provide eligible Syracuse residents with free broadband internet access
Improving broadband equity is part of Walsh's Syracuse Surge strategy to create inclusive growth in the New Economy
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer championed ARPA investment in broadband infrastructure for Syracuse and communities across America
Syracuse, N.Y. -- Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced the opening of enrollment on Monday, Oct. 2 for Surge LinkTM, a pilot program to provide free broadband internet access to 2,500 households in the City of Syracuse. The new program, a key component of Syracuse’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) plan, is available to eligible residents on Syracuse’s Southwest, Near Westside, and Brighton neighborhoods.
Applications for Surge Link are available online at syracusesurgelink.com; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by calling (315) 325-5000. Applicants must live in designated, underserved census tracts in the pilot area and either meet income requirements or participate in other federal assistance programs including but not limited to Federal Public Housing Assistance, Medicaid, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
"Limited access to reliable, affordable internet service deprives children from learning opportunities and minimizes access to jobs, healthcare, and other online services that many of us take for granted. Without closing the digital divide that plagues lower income neighborhoods, we can’t achieve our Syracuse Surge goal of inclusive growth in the New Economy,” said Mayor Walsh. “Surge Link will change people’s lives for the better now. We will actively be evaluating this pilot and look forward to expanding the service in the future to provide affordable, high-speed internet to underserved households in other Syracuse neighborhoods.”
Following a nationwide request for proposals, the City selected Community Broadband Networks (CBN), a Geneva, N.Y. internet service provider, for a three-year contract to design, install and maintain the Syracuse network. The Syracuse Common Council authorized $3.5 million in ARPA funds for the pilot phase of the program.
The Surge Link network is a fixed-wireless access (FWA) solution that transmits an internet signal to subscriber households. The signals are received by in-home equipment which provides a private, secure high-speed internet connection. CBN will provide hands-on technical assistance for in-home installations beginning this fall throughout most of the pilot area, with some service starting this winter in areas where coverage is not yet available.
“Thanks to the historic $123 million I secured for the City of Syracuse in the American Rescue Plan, the Surge Link network is on its way to bridging the digital divide for thousands of underserved homes and families. Surge Link is exactly the sort of transformational, long-term investment that I envisioned when we passed the historic American Rescue Plan Act, so communities like Syracuse could accelerate the post-pandemic recovery,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer. “Reliable high-speed internet access is not a luxury, but a necessity, and is essential for everything from work to school to healthcare. I am proud to have delivered the $3.5 million in federal funding needed to charge up Surge Link and give Syracuse’s Southwest, Near Westside and Brighton neighborhoods the connectivity they need to succeed in the 21st century.”
“Every household should have access to affordable broadband solutions that meet their needs,” said Angela Siefer, Executive Director of National Digital Inclusion Alliance. “Technology access and use is no longer a luxury. It is now a necessity to live, learn, work, and thrive. Kudos to the City of Syracuse for prioritizing digital equity.”
“Community Broadband Networks’ mission, since inception, has been to provide affordable internet access to the many underserved residents in Central New York,” said James Orioli, Chief Financial Officer of CBN. “We’ve seen how access to the internet can change people’s lives for the better—enabling students to access their classrooms remotely, or elderly folks to receive tele-health services at home and providing many more benefits. We are excited to partner with the City of Syracuse to deliver Surge Link to Syracuse residents. Together, we can bridge the digital divide and create a more connected and inclusive society.”
Data from the 2022 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) shows that over 25% of Syracuse households lack reliable access to broadband internet. Narrowing that gap is a critical part of the Syracuse Surge, the City’s strategy for inclusive growth in the New Economy. The City has made key investments in digital infrastructure, including upgrades to city operations that utilize connected technology with data analytics and programs to promote digital inclusion and skilling for residents. In its effort to improve access to the internet for residents, the City established free Wi-Fi service at public buildings such as City Hall and One Park Place and expanded free outdoor public Wi-Fi access at five neighborhood-based community center locations throughout the city.
Using ARPA funds, the City worked with the Syracuse Neighborhood Community Center Collaborative to launch the “Digital Empowerment Program” in January 2023, which provides Digital Navigators citywide to work with residents one-on-one and in small groups to improve digital literacy and help access affordable home internet options. In addition, the program connected families that don’t have a computer at home with free laptops. More than 400 residents have participated in the Digital Empowerment Program, using the internet to access opportunities such as applying for jobs and public benefits, receiving social services, and staying connected to their family and friends.