IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Syracuse, N.Y., Leaders Consider $3.5M City-Owned Internet Plan

Mayor Ben Walsh’s administration has proposed using federal stimulus money to build a city-owned wireless network offering 100-megabit broadband service to some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

(TNS) — Some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods will soon have free broadband service if city lawmakers approve a $3.5 million plan to build a new city-owned wireless network.

Mayor Ben Walsh’s administration has proposed to use federal stimulus money to build a network serving 10 Census tracts on the south, southwest and near west sides of the city.

If the Common Council approves the plan, income-qualified households in those areas should have access to 100-megabit broadband service by the end of summer, said Jennifer Tifft, director of strategic initiatives.

Following a request for proposals, city officials late last year chose Community Broadband Networks FLX to build and operate the network. The Geneva-based company provides Internet service in the Finger Lakes region and beyond.

The network will use fixed wireless technology. Each customer will receive a router or other equipment to receive the signal from the city’s transmitters, which will be located mainly atop city buildings or on utility poles, Tifft said.

To qualify for free service, a household can earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level. That’s about $29,000 for a single person, $39,000 for two people, or $60,000 for a family of four.

City officials are planning to provide free service to at least 2,500 households for three years, Tifft said. Syracuse officials will use federal funding to subsidize the service.

By 2024, officials hope to develop a sustainability plan for maintaining the service after federal funding runs out, Tifft said.

About one in four city households does not have Internet service, an absence that often goes hand-in-hand with poverty. In the area targeted for free service, the numbers are even worse.

Up to 40% of households in the target area do not currently have Internet service. Many of the Census tracts also have large minority populations.

“There’s really a big equity reason as to why we selected this area,’’ Tifft said.

In addition to building the network, Community Broadband Networks FLX will sign up customers, verify incomes, and provide the service.

The Common Council plans to hold a committee meeting, as yet unscheduled, before voting on the plan.

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.