Tracy Mitrano sees a need for broadband for everyone now more than ever, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“In every crisis, there’s an opportunity,” Mitrano said. “Our opportunity is seeing the need for broadband.”

Mitrano, the Democratic challenger for the 23rd congressional district, which includes the Greater Olean area, added that areas in the district have been “left behind” economically and technologically due to the lack of broadband. 

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During a media call Thursday, Mitrano followed up on her most recent “Tuesday Talks With Tracy,” a broadband discussion with executives from the Southern Tier Network.

Mitrano said broadband can bring the district into the 21st century. 

“I promise the voters of this district that we will get there under my leadership in Congress,” Mitrano said. “I will get it done.”

To get broadband to the 23rd district, an internet backbone needs to be established, Mitrano said.

An internet backbone is a system of cables, the more effective variety being optical fiber, that runs from one large data center, in this case, a city, to another. Once the backbone gets established, more specific connections, such as building-to-building, can be created. 

Optical fiber is a transparent, flexible fiber made out of plastic or glass only slightly thicker in diameter than a human hair and capable of transporting information via light pulses. These fibers get collected and wrapped in casing to create fiber optic cabling, which delivers the broadband. 

“To get the backbone laid, we may as a nation use different tax structures,” Mitrano said.

Mitrano said the past and the present could hold a model for funding broadband deployment in the future. 

According to Mitrano, when the government enacted the Rural Electrification Act in the 1930s, it funded rural areas to gain access to power lines via federal loans.

Meanwhile, when the government got rural areas access to telephone, it funded the project with taxes on people’s phone bills. 

A model Mitrano mentioned from the present was the Southern Tier Network, a not-for-profit organization that supplies optical fiber broadband through funding from grant organizations, state and federal funding. 

“I’m mentioning this to show that there are many models for how we should approach broadband deployment,” Mitrano said. 

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