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Broadband survey will provide compass for bringing service to Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 December 2013 at 12:00 am

Survey going to county residents about high-speed Internet

Editor’s note: This article was updated from an earlier story.

Residents throughout Orleans County towns are asked to fill out a short survey about their high-speed Internet access, reliability and needs.

State Sen. George Maziarz sent out the surveys to residents in the 10 Orleans County towns as well as seven towns in Niagara County. He is working with Orleans and Niagara County leaders, as well as town officials, to bring high-speed Internet to underserved rural areas in the two counties.

The service is spotty in rural areas, and it is cost-prohibitive to run cables down some roads with only a few houses. One possibility could be high-speed WiFi Internet access, which doesn’t require cables.

The survey asks residents if they would subscribe to broadband Internet service if it was to be offered at a subscription rate similar in price paid by residents with the service.

“This will give us a good compass going forward,” County Legislator Lynne Johnson, R-Lyndonville, said during a Legislature meeting on Monday.

The questionnaire’s goal is to deliver a “market analysis” to potential Internet providers to help them to gauge the market’s potential. Residents are asked to take the survey seriously and please return it as requested.

“The more positive responses we receive, the more leverage we have in piquing a provider’s interest,” said Evhen Tupis, the project executive from BPGreene, who has been organizing this effort in behalf of the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance.

The lack of high-speed Internet access in parts of the two counties put residents, businesses and students at a disadvantage, county officials said.

Based on a three-town mini-study in Orleans County, two telecommunication companies have already asked to be included in an upcoming Request For Proposal phase. Tupis says he expects to reach out to even more potential providers at that time.

The BPGreene approach includes clauses that both assure a reasonable profit for the potential provider and that there is no long-term taxpayer subsidy.

Before the project gets to the proposal stage, the questionnaire needs to be filled out and turned in, Orleans County Legislative Chairman David Callard said.

“This a critical step in the process,” he said. “Our response will have a direct effect on our ability to proceed with county-wide broadband availability.”

There is plenty of state money to help with the projects. On Thursday Gov. Andrew Cuomo $14.5 million in state funds for nine broadband projects that will expand access to broadband services for nearly 30,000 residents and more than 2,000 businesses in Upstate New York.

“Access to high speed internet is a critical resource for businesses and residents in today’s global economy,” Cuomo said in statement on Thursday. “These grants will connect underserved and rural communities to the many benefits of broadband access, including giving local businesses the opportunity to reach consumers from around the world.”