BETHANY — With major state incentives promised to help bring broadband Internet to unserved and under-served communities, telecommunications companies had their pick of more than 90,000 households, businesses and farms. Despite more than $211 million awarded this week as part of the New NY Broadband Program, supporting about $56 million in private investment, no projects were secured for Genesee County. That was despite more than 500 units being available for bidding, Empire State Development confirmed with The Daily News Thursday.
“Unfortunately, no one stepped up to the plate,” ESD Assistant Press Secretary Madeline Belloff said in an email.
Areas that were available among the Phase II projects awarded Tuesday included portions of Bergen, Darien, Le Roy, Pavilion and Stafford, along with much of Wyoming County. The announcement that five Wyoming County towns were successfully bid intrigued Bethany Supervisor Carl Hyde, Jr. That his town wasn’t even among the Genesee towns up to bid was frustrating, but not surprising.
Hyde said Bethany has run into many of the same hurdles other rural communities have faced in attracting companies to build out broadband services. The state’s mapping shows far wider Internet access than exists — which is phony, he said. Larger providers like Time Warner Cable are blunt, saying it’s not cost effective. Smaller providers like Empire Access are interested, Hyde said, but they also won’t dive into an unprofitable area. Hyde said his office is filled with fliers for residents.
They urge the residents who are vocal about their desire for broadband internet to call Empire, a Steuben County-based broadband Internet provider that has been active in the city of Batavia.
“The more people we can get on the list for Internet service, the more they’ll take a look to get out there,” Hyde said. “Time Warner Cable says it’s not cost effective. But if the state is giving them free money to extend Internet service, and pick up new customers? I don’t understand the thinking.”
According to ESD, areas that have not been open for bidding in previous phases, and those that failed to receive bids, will be immediately placed in the third and final phase of the New NY Broadband Program set for bidding next month. Belloff said the ESD’s Broadband Program Office will increase its efforts and “coordinate with county leadership to try and entice companies to cover these (areas).”
Hyde and Genesee County Legislator Gregg Torrey both said Thursday they’d take another step by reaching out to counterparts in Wyoming County, including Wyoming County IDA Executive Director Bill Daly and town supervisors in Pike, Orangeville, Wethersfield, Genesee Falls and Eagle.
“I’m going to be all over it,” Hyde said. Torrey said he’s focusing on the business side.
His district covers Alexander, Bethany and Pavilion, all areas that sit within “the last mile” designation that’s within reach of broadband but without service.
“As of right now, it comes down to the providers, and getting them to the furthest reaches of the rural areas,” Torrey said. “There’s money out there, but we need the interest.”
But there are still areas where the funding has been difficult to reach. With $500 million in state funding — now boosted by another $170 million in federal funding — available, those figures could work out for a telecommunications provider. Hyde said Bethany had talked with Empire about pursuing the program last year, hoping to bring coverage to the southern part of the town and other broadband-less areas.
The town had to back out after a critical, and potentially costly, issue arose in the paperwork.
“In the fine print it said the municipality had to post $150,000 to the state, and if the project was awarded and was not done in a reasonable amount of time, the municipality would forfeit the $150,000,” Hyde said. “Bethany doesn’t have $150,000 that we can gamble with like that.”
But with high-speed, reliable Internet a necessity for businesses and farms, and essential for an increasing amount of schoolwork, Hyde said they do have energy to exert.
“I’ve got taxpayers that need Internet, that want Internet,” he said.
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SUPERFAST broadband provider Keycom is celebrating success after being named as a finalist in three categories of the prestigious Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) awards 2016. The Stafford company has impressed in the Best Superfast Broadband, Best Consumer Fixed Broadband and Best Business Broadband categories. The ISPAs are the premier awards for companies across the broadband and telecom industries.
Entrants undergo two months of rigorous technical testing before the shortlist is announced.
Paula Benoit, pictured, Enterprise Director at Keycom, said: “The ISPAs are the true benchmark of quality in our industry and it is fantastic to have our services recommended in this way.
“I’m delighted for our staff, we work hard to ensure we have a team who are always looking to innovate and put the customers first.
“We recognise the importance that good broadband connections play in 21st century life, whether that is for business people working to secure a vital contract, or residents in social housing looking to report a repair or stay in touch with friends and relatives.”
The ISPA awards ceremony will be held at The Brewery, in London, on July 7