County will pay for broadband buildout without town, school dollars

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 July 2021 at 9:40 am

Photos by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson speaks during Friday’s Legislative Luncheon at Tillman’s Village Inn.

ALBION — Orleans County won’t be seeking contributions from towns and the school districts to pay for an expansion of broadband internet, County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said.

The Legislature next week expects to vote on a proposal to close the internet service gaps in the county. The county sought a request for proposals (RFPs) for companies to provide wireless internet service for 1,351 addresses in the county currently without access to the service.

The county has estimated it will cost $4.1 million to put the infrastructure in place for the service. Residents would then likely pay a subscription to internet providers for the service. County officials plan to use some of the American Rescue Plan Act funds for the project. The County Legislature in late June accepted $3,918,951.50 from U.S. Department of Treasury, the first half of the county’s payment with the other half expected in about a year.

Johnson said some of county’s share in Rescue Plan funds plus other county revenue will be used “to build out a robust broadband infrastructure across Orleans in the near term.”

She made the announcement during Friday’s Legislative Luncheon at Tillman’s Village Inn. That event was organized by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.

“We believe this is such an important project for the county that we will not be asking for American Rescue co-funds from the towns or school districts,” she said. “This will give our towns and villages more options to utilize their rescue funds in a manner that most benefits each local company.”

Companies had until July 1 to submit proposals where they would co-locate their technology on existing county-owned communication towers.

Those sites include at the Emergency Management Office on West County House Road in Albion, Route 31A in Clarendon, Maple Ridge Road in Medina, Route 31 in Albion next to Public Safety Building, West Avenue in Lyndonville, Route 237 in Kendall, Route 237 in Holley by the water tank. If necessary, additional towers may need to be constructed to meet the county’s service goals.

The total of unserved addresses in the county includes 74 in Albion, 302 in Barre, 35 in Carlton, 57 in Clarendon, 39 in Gaines, 16 in Kendall, 41 in Murray, 287 in Ridgeway, 206 in Shelby, and 294 in Yates for 1,351 total.