NORTHWEST, NJ – U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer Thursday hosted a roundtable between Northwestern New Jersey elected officials, local internet service providers and stakeholders, and the federal Executive Branch agency principally responsible for advising the President on telecommunications and policies on expanding broadband internet access — the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
NITA is overseeing some of the COVID-19 relief packages’ broadband grants, and Doug Kinkoph, the Associate Administrator of NTIA’s Office of Telecommunications and Information Applications, joined the roundtable.
During the roundtable, Gottheimer and local officials requested that NTIA, as it develops guidelines for COVID-19 relief broadband grants, make areas like Sussex and Warren Counties eligible for federal investment, and  that county governments be able to directly apply for federal broadband grants, rather than coordinating through the state government.
NTIA announced that it will consider the unique broadband access challenges facing communities in Northwestern New Jersey as it develops federal grant program guidelines. NTIA also committed to coordinating with the FCC and local partners to improve the accuracy of data maps so that funding allocations do not leave behind unconnected areas.
“We need to continue expanding access to high-speed broadband for underserved and rural communities like Sussex and Warren Counties, where too many of our residents still do not have the internet connectivity they need. We also need to get costs down and make it easier to install the broadband infrastructure necessary to connect our homes, schools, and businesses,” said Gottheimer, a Member of the Congressional Rural Broadband Caucus. “In Northwestern New Jersey, we’re glad to hear that NTIA is working on improving federal broadband data maps, which can help Sussex and Warren Counties claw back federal investment to help residents who are still lacking quality broadband internet access. I’m also continuing to work with our great local officials to cut through red tape, so that our county governments can directly apply for these federal grants, rather than having to coordinate with the state.”
Gottheimer was joined by Warren County Commissioner James Kern, Warren County Commissioner Lori Ciesla, Sussex County Commissioner Herbert Yardley, Knowlton Mayor Adele Starrs, Andover Township Mayor Janis McGovern, Frelinghuysen Mayor Chris Stracco, Frelinghuysen Deputy Mayor Keith Ramos, Hope Mayor Tim McDonough, Hardyston Mayor Brian Kaminski, Walpack Mayor Victor Maglio, Blairstown Deputy Mayor Debra Waldron, Washington Borough Councilwoman Josephine Noone, Sussex Borough Councilman Mario Poggi, Sussex County Chief Information Officer William Kosinetz, Planet Networks CEO Robert Boyle, Newton Robotics Team Co-Captain Matt Kuever, and representatives from Altice USA, CenturyLink, and Atlantic Health.
In recent weeks, Gottheimer announced new steps to help make sure federal COVID-19 relief investment for broadband support is delivered to both Sussex and Warren Counties, as well as new steps to connect local officials and internet providers to the right broadband resources to help improve connectivity for local residents and businesses — including today’s roundtable.
Gottheimer is also leading a bipartisan effort in Congress, urging congressional leadership to dedicate $45 billion of the relief to state and local governments in the new COVID-19 aid package to address broadband connectivity needs in local communities.