Syracuse, NY Launches Community Broadband Pilot Program to Bridge the Digital Divide

Syracuse, NY recently introduced its community broadband pilot program, Surge Link. The program will offer free broadband internet access to 2,500 underserved households in selected areas of the city. Surge Link applicants must live in designated, underserved census tracts in the pilot area and either meet income requirements or participate in federal assistance programs. A US Census Bureau American Community Survey conducted in 2022 showed that over 25% of Syracuse households lack reliable access to broadband internet.

“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,” said Mayor Ben Walsh. “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. 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.”

Surge Link is made possible through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides eligible households with a discount on broadband service and connected devices. The city plans to use ARPA funds to partially subsidize subscribers for the remainder of the pilot period, should Congress fail to provide additional funds for the ACP next year.

The City awarded Community Broadband Networks (CBN) a three-year contract to design, install and maintain the network. The Surge Link network uses a fixed-wireless access (FWA) solution and CBN will provide technical assistance for in-home installations beginning this autumn. The program also provides a one-time discount of up to US$100 per household to purchase a laptop, desktop, or tablet.

“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.”