Orleans and Niagara adding free WiFi hotspots

Staff Reports Posted 1 July 2020 at 11:45 am

In Orleans, the hotspots are going at most town and village hall locations

An innovative collaboration with several partners will increase internet access by means of public Wi-Fi hotspots for dozens of rural towns in Niagara and Orleans counties in New York, according to David Godfrey, the Niagara County Legislator and Lynne Johnson, the Orleans County Legislature chairwoman. They are co-chairs of the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance (NORA).

Deployment is already underway. In Orleans County, the hot spots will be at three village hall locations – Albion, Holley and Medina – and nine out of the 10 town halls. Those town sites include Albion, Barre, Carlton, Clarendon, Gaines, Kendall, Murray, Shelby and Yates.

(Ridgeway opted out because there parking lot is too small and the location on West Avenue is somewhat hidden for a hotspot. The Ridgeway Town Hall also is about two blocks from the Medina Village Office which will have a hot spot. The Lyndonville village office also is right next to the Yates Town Hall. They share a parking lot so they only needed one hotspot.)

“Working with RTO Wireless, our goal is to have high-speed, reliable, and affordable broadband available to every home and business across our two counties, and we won’t stop until we achieve that goal,” says Lynne Johnson. “But today with record numbers of people working from home, and our children trying to advance their education, RTO and Microsoft have ‘stepped to the plate’ to immediately help provide the internet service that is so desperately needed in times of crisis. A simple ‘Thank You’ can hardly express our gratitude for the commitment they have made.”

In Niagara County, the hot spots will be in Middleport, Porter and two each in Wheatfield and Wilson.

“The technology being installed, is undeniably top shelf, which reflects on RTO as one of the top technology companies in this part of the country,” Godfrey said. “From the time they first presented their proposal, to working together to develop a deployment plan, RTO’s CEO Steve Hubbard and his staff have been absolutely wonderful to work with. With Microsoft’s support, these public Wi-Fi hotspots will provide secure, robust internet connections, at no cost to the municipalities, not only during the current crisis, but also into the future.”

Launched in 2017, the Microsoft Airband Initiative seeks to close the rural broadband gap in America and around the world, with the goal of bringing broadband access to 3 million unserved people living in rural America by 2022.

“Microsoft approached RTO Wireless about teaming up on deploying free public Wi-Fi at venues located in rural communities that lack sufficient broadband coverage,” says RTO’s CEO Steve Hubbard.

Microsoft offered to support the purchase and installation of the hotspot devices. Hubbard says he was already in discussions with NORA about deploying fixed wireless broadband to the rural communities that currently lack service. The conversation evolved to an immediate measure to address the lack of broadband by identifying town buildings and schools that can support public Wi-Fi services.

Public host institutions need to have existing broadband service and agree to host the equipment. RTO Wireless procured the equipment and coordinated with two local firms to install the Cisco Meraki equipment.

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