Broadband Plan Readied

Broadband Plan Readied

IDA To Let Contract With Telecom Firm

Editor’s Note:  This article appeared in the Dec. 4-5, 2014 editions of The Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta.

By JIM KEVLIN • allotsego.com

The future in Otsego County is not now.  But it could be now in the next 2-3 years.

The IDA-commissioned Broadband Feasibility Study has found a $30 million public-private high-speed system can happen in Otsego County, and the agency is prepared to contract with a “telecom” to implement it as soon at the IDA’s Thursday, Dec. 4, monthly meeting in Oneonta.

The feasibility study’s findings were outlined Tuesday, Dec. 2, by Peter Rasmusson, CEO/Partner of FARR Techologies, based in Sioux City, Iowa, who said the company has conducted similar studies that resulted in successful projects in the upper Midwest, as well as projects in New York State and the West Coast.

Later that afternoon, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, announced he has obtained a $250,000 grant as “seed money” to get the initiative through its first steps.  He called high-speed broadband “required technology for emergency services, economic development and everyday life,” whose lack has hindered the county’s progress.

FARR’s researchers, Rasmusson related, found decades-long “dramatic underinvestment” in broadband locally by “incumbent carriers.”

To overcome this, he outlined a $30.3 million network that would use fiber to connect 13 “community centers” and a wireless service to extend into the county’s most rural areas.  The network will require 25 towers in all – about a dozen now exist – plus 210 miles of additional fiber in addition to 120 miles that exists and can be leased.

The “initial network,” when complete, would provide broadband to 19,800 locations, or 84 percent of the county.  The “build out” – employing larger antennas and other apparati – would eventually reach the remaining unserved 16 percent.

It would be a “10 megabit down, one megabit up” system, the next generation of service being considered by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).  The standard now is “four down, one up,” Rassmusson said.

The FARR study outlines a “three-ring” workscope.  Construction of the first phase, covering the southwest half of the county – Oneonta and Cooperstown included – should begin by 2016, but might get started late next year.

The second “ring” or phase would bring the eastern part of the county, roughly from Schenevus-Worcester to Cherry Valley, onto the system the following year.  The third and final phase would include the Richfield Springs and Edmeston areas.

The public-private partnership to make this happen would include four components:  The County of Otsego; the Otsego Electric Cooperative, which is eager to bring its maintenance and construction crews to the table; the IDA, with its PILOTs and access to low-cost financing, and, finally, a telecom, a privately run company already in the business.

At the briefing for local officials and the press on the fifth floor of 189 Main, Sandy Mathes, IDA president, said an RFQ – request for quotations – has been circulated, and discussions are to the point that the IDA it ready to act on that piece.

Rasmusson said the plan – it may be viewed at www.allotsego.com – is structured to ensure the financial viability of the undertaking.  The three-phase roll out helps ensure this, bringing ratepayers aboard more quickly.

Mathes said grants may be available through Connect NY as soon as February, and the U.S. Farm Bill and USDA programs are seeking to extend broadband to rural area.  The FARR study, however, was required before applications could be submitted; and now it is in hand.