Orleans seeks proposals to close internet gaps in county

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 July 2021 at 8:51 am

RFPs due today for companies to co-locate wireless technology on county communications towers

Photo by Tom Rivers: This 180-foot-high communication tower on Maple Ridge Road is next to Medina’s water tank. Orleans County is seeking proposals to co-locate wireless internet technology on county-owned communications towers.

ALBION – Proposals are due today from companies looking to land a contract to cover the internet gaps in Orleans County.

The county on May 25 sought requests for proposals (RFPs) for companies to provide wireless internet service for 1,351 addresses in the county currently without access to the service. Companies are asked 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.

The proposals are due today by 11:30 a.m. to the County Legislature and Jack Welch, the county’s chief administrative officer.

The county’s Public Safety Committee will review the sealed competitive proposals and then determine the next steps in the process. One criteria in the evolution of the proposals will be the “ability to deliver a high quality service at a reasonable cost in a timely manner,” according to the county’s specifications.

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 expect they will use some of the American Rescue Plan Act funds for the project. The County Legislature last week 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.

County officials have asked towns and school districts to also contribute to the cost of closing the high-speed internet gaps.

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. Districts aren’t sure if they can legally put any of that money to the wireless internet infrastructure.

Welch, the county chief administrative officer, said county officials look forward to seeing the proposals, which he hopes will address an important need in the county of closing the internet gaps.

“Needless to say, we will take time to review the responses to see if they meet our requirements,” he said.