Orleans applies to state for CARES money to expand broadband access

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 June 2021 at 1:23 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature is applying to the state for federal funding to expand broadband access.

The county last week voted to apply to the state Office of Community Renewal for money through the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities Act).

The CARES funds includes public service and infrastructure projects to ensure families in underserved communities have WiFi access for remote education and telehealth services.

“Broadband has been a number one priority of this legislature,” Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said during last week’s meeting.

The grant, which didn’t specify a dollar amount, is another effort from county officials to fund high-speed internet access.

The county estimates it would cost $4.1 million to have the service county-wide, which includes 1,351 properties without access and opportunities for the other 20,000 property owners to have improved high-speed internet.

Johnson and county officials on April 29 met with leaders from the 10 towns in the county and the five school districts, pitching a collaborative effort to use federal American Rescue Plan aid for the expanded high-speed internet.

The American Rescue Plan will bring $7.8 million to the county, while the 10 towns in the county will share $4,430,000 with some of that going the four villages.

The five school district collectively will receive $12.5 million in federal funds. However, the districts will be expected to use most of those funds to help students catch up in lost learning during the pandemic.

If the county’s grant application for CARES money is successful, Johnson said that would mean the county (and possibly towns) wouldn’t need to spend as much from their allocations through the American Rescue Plan.

If the county receives the grant, it will work with Upper Edge Consulting to implement the project and the funding.