LAFAYETTE TOWNSHIP, NJ (Sussex County) — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and NJ Governor Phil Murphy Friday led a bipartisan group of state and local leaders in outlining federal dollars being clawed back to New Jersey county, town, and state governments to improve broadband connectivity — especially in rural communities like in Sussex and Warren Counties.
The announcement was held at the Chocolate Goat Gift Shoppe, a local small business that opened in 1998, owned by sisters Jennifer Koza Todaro and Stephanie Koza Austin. Reliable broadband access has held them back from expanding further.
“For the sake of our families, economy, schools, and health care, we must continue fighting for communities across Warren and Sussex Counties to help boost their broadband connectivity. That’s why I fought to include dedicated investment for broadband infrastructure in the recent federal COVID-19 relief packages. Now, every county and town in Sussex and Warren County will be clawing back federal dollars that they can use to improve connectivity. We also need to get the dollars sent to the State of New Jersey for rural broadband right here in Sussex and Warren,” Gottheimer (NJ-5) said. “With partners on both sides of the aisle and at every level of government, I believe we can get this done.”
“Every New Jerseyan deserves access to reliable, affordable, and fast broadband internet,” Murphy said. “Unfortunately, too many residents and businesses, especially in rural and low-income areas of our state, are still unable to take advantage of broadband internet access. Along with our congressional delegation and our Legislature, we are working to ensure that those living and working in New Jersey have access to reliable high-speed broadband services.”
“High-speed internet is an absolute necessity in our world today, yet there are too many homes and communities in New Jersey that lack the broadband service many of us take for granted. The last year with so many employees and students working from home through the pandemic, it underscored the need of being wired for reliable internet connectivity,” Senator Steven Oroho said. “The creation of the Broadband Access Study Commission will examine the logistics of developing community broadband networks in order to deliver high-speed internet access, especially to underserved communities like many in rural areas. From a competitive standpoint, closing the digital divide is a must.”
According to American Community Survey data spanning 2015 through 2019, there are towns in the Fifth Congressional District where more than 20-25% of residents lack broadband access.
Gottheimer outlined the following investments and resources to improve broadband connectivity for Sussex County and Warren County:
- County & Town Broadband Investment: From the March 2021 COVID-19 relief package, every single county and town government will claw back federal dollars that can be invested in improving broadband connectivity. The Sussex County government is receiving $27.25 million and the Warren County is receiving $20.42 million. Each individual Fifth District town’s amount can be found here.
- State Broadband Investment: Also in the March 2021 COVID-19 relief package, Gottheimer personally fought to include a $10 billion nationwide investment for broadband and infrastructure projects. The State of New Jersey will claw back $190 million and Gottheimer has requested those dollars be utilized to improve broadband connectivity in Sussex and Warren Counties.
- New Federal Broadband Grants: The bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 relief bill, which Gottheimer helped lead, included two new grant programs now available for applications: (1) a $288 million Broadband Infrastructure Deployment Grant through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for communities that lack broadband, and (2) a $3.2 billion investment for a new Emergency Broadband Benefit Program for unemployed or qualifying low-income households.
- Bipartisan Legislation for Audio Telehealth: Gottheimer is also co-leading the introduction of bipartisan legislation to help physicians to meet over the phone with patients who have limited broadband access.
Gottheimer was joined by Chocolate Goat store co-owners Jennifer Koza-Todaro and Stephanie Koza-Austin, Governor Phil Murphy, Senator Steve Oroho (LD 24), Assemblyman Parker Space (LD 24), Sussex County Commissioner Director Dawn Fantasia, Frelinghuysen Mayor Christopher Stracco, Hope Mayor Timothy McDonough, Blairstown Mayor Robert Moorhead, Belvidere Mayor Joseph Kennedy, Hardwick Mayor Kevin Duffy, Sussex Mayor Edward Meyer, and Sussex County Administrator Gregory Poff.