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3,600 houses in Orleans lack Internet access

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 November 2014 at 12:00 am

Companies are due to submit proposals by Dec. 19

Government officials in Orleans County have talked for years about a lack of Internet access in parts of the county. It hurts students, farms and other businesses, putting them at a competitive disadvantage in an increasingly wired world.

Industry leaders would say 97 percent of the county was covered, but town and county officials sensed it was lower.

Now there is data that identifies 3,600 households without access to the Internet. Out of about 20,000 households in the county that represents 18 percent of homes without Internet.

The four villages – Albion, Holley Lyndonville and Medina – have 100 percent access. But out in the country it’s a different story.

“There are entire segments of roads with no access,” said Evhen Tupis from BPGreene.

His firm is working with Orleans and seven towns in Niagara County on a Broadband Internet initiative.

The communities completed a study to determine how many houses do not have access, and also compiled a vertical asset inventory, which includes water towers, barns, buildings and other structures that could serve as transmission points.

The counties put out a request for proposals to Internet providers to serve the unserved areas, and those proposals are due Dec. 19. Tupis said it will take time to analyze the proposals.

The project is being spearheaded through the Orleans Land Restoration Corporation, which operates under the Orleans Economic Development Agency umbrella.

The data and proposals could be used as part of grant or other funding application.

Tupis said some of the $2 billion approved for schools in a recent ballot proposition could be used. He has sent letters to the five districts in Orleans County, urging them to set aside some of the technology funds through the state program to boost “connectivity” at the school districts.

He is hopeful there will be lots of interest from Internet service providers to boost the service in underserved areas of the two counties.

“The RFPs should determine how much money is needed,” he said.