Six-year installation window of federal broadband grant frustrates planning for Lewis County | Lewis County


LOWVILLE – For Lewis County planners, a deadline for broadband providers to complete installation – set at six years by the Federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund – presents a barrier to further funding and concerns about the ease of use of the technology at the time of its installation.

In a presentation on this year’s progress on the issue of high-speed internet accessibility in the rural county, Planning Director Casandra Buell briefed lawmakers on her concerns at a council meeting. county lawmakers on Dec. 7.

“Many underserved places have received RDOF funding, so with these areas identified as having already received (these) funds, we cannot apply for federal or state funding in these areas. For areas that have received RDOF, Frontier Communications or Hughes Net funding, they have up to six years to implement (the program), ”she said. “Can you imagine? The technology is pretty much useless at this point then.

In a separate interview, Ms Buell said that although she contacted Frontier, “they would not confirm or deny where they put (the fiber-optic internet lines) or when” they would be installed.

County Director Ryan M. Piche added to Ms Buell’s presentation at the board meeting that it doesn’t look like the rural area targeted by the RDOF grant will have internet service anytime soon. , and that there may not even be a plan in place yet.

“To be very honest, our local telecom companies that received this money have no plans for the next one – they’re six years old so they’ll find out from six months to five years – so there’s really no hope that ‘They’re moving on none of those, “he said.” All the telecom companies are treating this RDOF plan as owner, so they … don’t have to tell us when they’re going to complete these projects. C is a pretty big obstacle.

The barrier it creates is for outside funding, but also the million dollars of its federal stimulus fund that the county has specifically set aside to help bring broadband to every home.

“So (the RDOF with Frontier and Hughes) is taking a lot of areas in our community where we could really start moving and laying fiber with grant money,” Piche said. “And it’s frustrating because if we take our funds to get into this area and Frontier ends up doing something in two years, then that’s money that could have been spent elsewhere.”

Despite the frustration with this federal program, Buell and her team made progress in organizing wireless tours in areas not included in the RDOF through two separate state grants.

A fixed wireless project in the city of Denmark using a county-owned tower with hot spots in Copenhagen is supported by funding of $ 250,000 from a grant from the Regional Northern Frontier Commission announced earlier this year. This tower inspired similar projects in Lyonsdale and a “census track” outside of Harrisville in the town of Diana, as well as “hot spots” in Port Leyden with a community development grant of $ 745,000 awarded in July.

“We have been very lucky this year to apply for these programs and I attribute a lot to the survey information we gathered from the technology survey we did at the end of last year, at the early this year, ”Ms. Buell told the county. board of directors, referring to the broadband survey carried out by the Northern Development Authority of the country.

In addition, wireless “hot spots” will be established in all other villages and hamlets with $ 368,000 of the county’s stimulus money dedicated to building broadband.

The county is now waiting to see if it will receive the $ 1.8 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to lay fiber optic cables in other parts of Denmark, Diana, Croghan, Watson, Lowville and Constableville. in partnership with Spectrum to complete the work. in one year after the grant has been awarded.

While the county is doing what it can to provide high-speed internet access to as many homes as possible, as quickly as possible through the cheaper option of fixed wireless, Ms Buell said in the end. , she believed in the long term solution. is wired and fiber optic.

To do this, she and her team will continue to plan around the limitation created by the RDOF program and seek grant funding opportunities as they arise.

“There’s a lot of funding coming in, so we’re trying to keep pace, and luckily we have all the information in front of us to work,” she said. “We’re really optimistic that there is even more funding we can get our hands on over the next six months.”

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