Orleans, Niagara teaming to apply for federal funds for high-speed internet

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 February 2020 at 2:13 pm

ALBION – Orleans and Niagara officials are teaming up for a joint application for federal funds to bring high-speed internet to underserved and unserved areas of the two counties. That’s about 3,600 addresses just in Orleans County.

The two counties are seeking federal funds to cover 100 percent of the costs of extending broadband internet through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program.

The Orleans County Legislature voted to pursue the grant on Wednesday and the Niagara County Legislature is expected pass a resolution in favor of the application next month. The application is due by March 16.

Orleans is taking the lead on the application. The two counties have been pursuing high-speed internet for several years through a two-county partnership, the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance.

David Godfrey, a Niagara County legislator from Wilson, believes this latest effort will pay off for the two counties. They first started working on high-speed internet in 2012.

The counties have pursued state and federal before but haven’t yet been successful. Godfrey said he is very optimistic the counties will land ReConnect funding for a project that could top $15 million.

The counties are looking at putting in broadband through a fixed wireless system, working with vendor ROS Wireless in Framingham, Mass.

“It’s extremely imperative we continue this fight,” said Orleans County Legislator Ken DeRoller of Kendall.

The lack of high-speed internet on many rural roads in the counties hurts businesses and residents, who download needed reports, homework and other information.

Godfrey said he is hopeful the grant will be awarded and the high-speed internet could be available next year for residents currently unable to access the service.

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