New York Broadband Funding will Improve Internet Access in Niagara County

The New NY Broadband Program funded nearly $200,000 to expand satellite Internet to over 1,100 locations.

by Tim Fenster, Niagara Gazette / March 12, 2018

(TNS) —  More than 1,000 households throughout Niagara County, N.Y., will be able to purchase reduced-cost satellite Internet thanks to nearly $200,000 in New NY Broadband Program funding.

The program recently announced its phase III awards — the final round of funding for broadband expansion — which included $197,820 in state funds for Hughes Network Systems, LLC, a satellite Internet provider, to expand to 1,169 locations throughout the county.

Combined with federal commitments and private matches, Hughes will invest $310,005.

Empire State Development officials said Hughes recently launched a new satellite Internet service capable of download speeds above 25 megabytes per second. The New NY Broadband Program defines broadband as Internet download speeds above 25 Mbps in the most rural areas, and above 100 Mbps in more developed areas.

Hughes satellite Internet is already available to many in the county. But according to ESD, the broadband program funds will help ensure it is affordable to those households and businesses that don't have access to broadband through fiber optic cable or other means.

ESD states Hughes will be bound to install satellite Internet at no more than $49, and limit Internet billing to $60 per month, for those 1,169 locations. Hughes will also be required to reserve Internet capacity for those locations and cannot impose hard data caps.

The $197,820 award covers 310 locations in the town of Wilson, 295 locations in the city of Niagara Falls, 97 locations in the town of Somerset, 136 locations in the town of Lockport, 69 locations in the town of Hartland and dozens of locations throughout other municipalities.

State officials expect the service to be available this year.

ESD officials say the expansion of Hughes satellite Internet at reduced cost will, eventually, provide broadband coverage to every business and household in the county.

Much of the broadband expansion in Niagara County will not require state funds.

In 2016, the state Public Service Commission required Spectrum Internet — formed by the Time Warner Cable-Charter Communications merger — to expand broadband to 145,000 unserved locations as a condition of the merger.

In January, Spectrum reported that it had expanded broadband to 42,000 locations statewide, exceeding its commitment by 6,000. Spectrum is required to complete the expansion by May 2020.

Spectrum previously said that it does not have available expansion data on a county by county basis.

©2018 the Niagara Gazette (Niagara Falls, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.