Rural New York Communities Prepare for High-Speed Internet

Four rural counties are set to receive fiber Internet connection thanks to investment from the New NY State Broadband Project and telecom partners.

by Chris Potter, The Evening Tribune / February 26, 2018
Gigabit Internet supporters turned out in force at a rally supporting Chattanooga, Tenn.'s FCC petition to overturn a state law that restricts the city's ability to expand its high-speed broadband network. Shutterstock

(TNS) — BELMONT — A lack of high speed internet will no longer be an impediment to progress for rural homes and businesses.

That's the thinking behind the New NY State Broadband Project, which aims to close the digital divide and bring high speed internet access to all corners of the state.

Armstrong, a telecommunications company with offices in Addison, has been awarded contracts to bring fiber internet to rural parts of Steuben, Allegany, Livingston and Cattaraugus counties. The Whitesville Fire Hall had the distinction of going online first, connected with a Fiber to the Home install during a January ceremony covered by The Spectator.

Armstrong general manager John Rayeski provided an update to the Allegany County Planning and Economic Development Committee at this week's legislature meeting.

Armstrong crews have been hard at work fulfilling commitments from Phase I and Phase II of the New NY State Broadband Project. The company was recently awarded another $30,353,892 for Phase III, which will address another 9,454 locations.

"We're looking at our business plan to make sure we have all our ducks in a row," Rayeski reported to the committee. "We're 90 percent sure we're going to accept the Phase III. It makes sense. Phase I and Phase II, which we already have, surrounds III, so we'd be driving through and not serving (those areas) if we didn't take it."

The first areas to come online as part of the project include the southwestern corner of Steuben County and the southeastern corner of Allegany County, covering the communities of Jasper, Troupsburg, Whitesville and others.

Swinging northeast, areas around Greenwood, Hartsville, Canisteo, Andover, Alfred and Almond will be available in the second quarter of 2018, as will stretches of rural Birdsall, Ossian, Dansville, Swain, Dalton and Dunda to the north. Northern Allegany County and southern Wyoming County are anticipated to come online in the third quarter. Phase III will cover additional portions of the area.

"We were given two years to complete this project," Rayeski said. "Dec. 31 is when the mainline cable has to be completed. The drops to the house can be completed within a year later. We're confident we're going to get very close to that."

The New NY State Broadband Project hopes to raise quality of life and unlock the economic potential of rural areas by allowing them to compete in the global marketplace.

"Access to high-speed internet is critical as New York works to deliver the resources needed for industries to thrive and businesses to remain competitive in the 21st century global economy," Governor Cuomo said in a statement announcing Round III funding. "This cutting-edge program is advancing our vision to connect communities, empower entrepreneurs and residents, and support advanced technological innovation. Projects achieved through the New NY Broadband Program are a major step forward in creating the most robust broadband infrastructure network in the nation, while ensuring that reliable, high-speed internet is available to all New Yorkers."

Rayeski noted the immediate economic impact of the broadband installation.

"We're going to have hundreds of contractors throughout this vast area," he said. "If you take Phase III, we'll be placing in excess of 3,000 miles of fiber. We're going to have people, contractors, all over our area. They're going to be needing some place to eat, a place to fuel their trucks, some lodging. They're going to be spending money in the communities."

Armstrong has purchased a building in Belfast as it ramps up the project. During the initial January event, company officials said about 10 employees will be based out of the site.

"In the areas we've started construction, we've been hiring local people to do the contracting," Rayeski detailed. "Armstrong itself is hiring people. It's going to be gradual. As we start building our subscriber base we'll be adding staff. We've already hired several people.

"We bought a warehouse in Belfast. Preston Trucking used to be there. We bought that building, we're in it now. We're going to be reconstructing it. We're looking at some property in the Seneca Nation. We plan to have the same excellent service as we do with the Armstrong telephone company."

Legislator Bill Dibble asked Rayeski if the company would be coming to areas of the county not currently shown as part of the project.

Rayeski noted Armstrong was precluded from bidding on areas where providers could already offer 100 megabits per second. The new network will bring high speed internet to unserved areas.

"Once this is built — because this is the main focus of our mandate — there are a lot of empty areas that we will look into at that time and possibly use our own money, but we cannot use the grant money for that," Rayeski said of expanding service even further.

Legislator Curt Crandall inquired about rates of service.

"Our rates are going to be competitive," Rayeski said. "Whatever the current providers are charging, we're going to have them be very competitive with that."

©2018 The Evening Tribune, Hornell, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.