Grant will cover costs to hook low-to-moderate income homes to new wireless internet

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2021 at 9:09 am

United Way will screen and identify households for grant in towns of Albion, Gaines and Shelby, as well as villages of Albion, Holley and Medina

ALBION – State and federal funds for about $600,000 will pay the expense of hooking low-to-moderate income households to a new wireless internet system that soon will be installed by RTO Wireless of Wellesley, Mass.

The grant will pay for the household equipment to connect to the system. That wireless internet service receiver equipment is about $650 per household. That grant will pay the costs for 920 households that are in the villages of Albion, Holley and Medina, as well as the towns of Albion, Gaines and Shelby. Those communities were eligible because at least 51 percent of households met the criteria for being low to moderate income.

The grant is part of funding package for $1,999,833 from the state Housing Trust Fund Corporation, the state Office of Community Renewal and the state Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) funds. Those funds will pay for the wireless internet expansion for the low to moderate income municipalities, covering the household equipment and also part of the expense from RTO for installing the system on towers.

County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson praised County Chief Administrative Officer Jack Welch for modifying the county’s grant application, which increased the number of households eligible for the funding from about 500 to 920.

The Legislature last week also awarded a $92,902 contract that is covered with the grant to the United Way of Orleans County. That agency will coordinate a screening process for the low to moderate income households.

The United Way already is leading a digital literacy initiative in the county and will be assisting many of the eligible households in learning how to use the technology.

Work should start soon from RTO Wireless, which will co-locate equipment on existing county-owned communication towers and also build three new towers for the equipment. The county-owned towers include 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.

The Legislature on July 28 voted to accept a $3,608,435 bid from ROT to make high-speed internet available for the current 1,351 address points that can’t connect to the service.

County officials say the project will be done by this time next year, and could be complete in as soon as seven months.

The system will gradually be turned on tower by tower, Welch said.

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.

The county is using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds as well as the state grant for the project.