Organizers need more survey responses to demonstrate a lack of service in some areas

At the last meeting of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center (Yates County’s IDA) Jeff Gasper, Manager of Broadband Sales and Sales Engineering for ECC Technologies Inc. of Penfield, made a presentation to introduce the Southern Tier Network (STN) to the IDA, explain the advantages of their fiber network for Yates County, and explore how the Yates IDA and STN can work together to “leverage” the STN network as an asset to bring new businesses into the county.

STN was established in 2011 as a not-for-profit public-private partnership, overseen by a Board of Directors to make Open Access Fiber available to business and civic users who need access to high-speed, high-volume internet connections. STN is a “Middle Mile Provider” who work with internet service providers (ISPs)‚ to connect the end users to their desired sources.

STN built 78-miles of fiber network in Yates County, completed in October 2016, into Branchport, Penn Yan, Dundee, and Dresden. Currently, they are working with carriers and ISPs like Empire Access, which co-built portions of the Yates County network, as well as FLTG/FirstLight, FiberTech/LighTower, RuralNet, Plexicomm, and Uniti Fiber.

The ongoing survey of interconnectivity in Yates County has to date reached only 52 percent of the responses desired for an adequate sample across all areas. That surevey continues into March. County officials say the survey is essential to provide accurate information to broadband businesses that might expand into the area.

Steve Manning, CEO of STN states that in areas of the county where wired or wireless carriers do not come forward to establish connections, STN may consider establishing their own. Paper copies of the survey are available at most municipal offices in Yates County and online at https://steuben-yates-ny.baat-campaign.com.

Dundee Central School Superintendent Kelly Houck, who has been working with other school districts and municipalities on the Dundee Community Broadband project, says the current maps do not accurately demonstrate a lack of service. The group she is working with has completed their own surveys and shared the information with the county. She says that group and STN expect to publish requests for proposals in February to attract broadband services to the area.

Those already making use of STN include Yates County Public Safety communication units at 417 Liberty St., the Sherman Hill Tower, and the Angus Road Tower; the Public Libraries connected to the Southern Tier Library System including Dundee, Penn Yan, and Branchport; and diverse fiber laterals connecting Soldiers & Sailors Hospital to their Pre-Emption Road offices and to Geneva.

According to Gasper, STN is best positioned to directly assist companies with two or more locations on/near their network that have existing regional IT support teams, and who have the ability and desire to run their own dark fiber network. Their direct sale targets are in the fields of education, finance, healthcare, and industry, and are already in discussions with Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES, Ferro Corp., Finger Lakes Community Health, Bank of the Finger Lakes, Community Bank, Servu Credit Union, Pro Action of Steuben and Yates Inc., and Silgan Plastics.

Referring to the Dundee Community Broadband project, Gasper states, “ECC has attended the last four community broadband outreach meetings in Dundee to discuss the STN network and how it can be utilized as an underlying network connectivity vehicle to assist with the potential community broadband deployment.” Manning and Gasper met with Houck to discuss STN’s role in the overall project.