Study shows Yates County needs and wants better telecommunications

Loujane Johns

A study nearly completed by ECC (Educational, Corporate and Community) Technologies of Fairport shows a strong interest within Yates County to improve telecommunications.

The Yates County IDA asked ECC President Joe Starks and Telecom Consultant Kurt Frenzel to give an overview of their study at the Jan. 16 meeting.  Starks said the study will be complete when a few maps are finished.

Starks said as part of the study, talks were held with focus groups representing:  business, government, public safety and education. "What we found county-wide was a concern for "down-time" when systems were slow," Starks said. 

Talks with Keuka College and Finger Lakes Health demonstrated significant interest and need.  IDA board member and Keuka College Vice President of Finance and Administration Jerry Hiller said, "The college is very interested.  We want this."  He said students and faculty need faster internet connections.  He cited a recent "down time" that was costly to the college.

During the group discussions, Starks said people were amazed to find out they were now paying up to four times what others in the Rochester area pay for the same services.

Another aspect of the study was a random survey yielding a 25 percent response, which Stark said was a good return.

The IDA is especially interested since they are the agency involved with economic development.  Starks told the board telecommunication availability is now one of the top five things companies look at when considering location  in an area.

ECC also talked to the present service providers about what they are doing today and planning in the future.  Wireless capabilities are provided in the area by Verizon, Sprint/Nextel, AT&T Mobility and Wavhost.   Competitive telecommunications services are available through AT&T, Paetec and Time Warner.

IDA member Taylor Fitch said, "This  project is near and dear to my heart."  Fitch is also a Yates County Legislator and has been an advocate of improving Telecom in the county.  He said without a county planner at the present time the Yates County Chamber of Commerce was asked to take the lead on the project.

Frenzel showed maps depicting where other providers were located within the county.  Another map identified 10 possible locations for a focus site.  "This building is a possible location," he told the board.

According to Starks the majority of the county with the exception of Himrod and part of Torrey is serviced by Time Warner for cable.  He said towns do have their own agreements.

Neighboring Ontario County will have links completed from Eastview to Geneva by June.  The total 108 mile Ontario Fiber Optic Network will be complete in 2009.  Starks said Ontario County is already seeing investors and businesses moving back into the area with the additional technology. 

Frenzel said the the link would help especially in the northern part of the county.  He also added there is a possibility of a link to the Ontario system.  Although Ontario County funded their project without any grants, Starks said there is funding available through state and federal grants.  The government on both levels are interested in having all areas, big or small, linked to new technology.

In other business the IDA discussed:

• BUILDING:  CEO Steve Griffin reported on possible repairs needed at the Odd Fellows building on Main Street.  He said the first floor is in good repair.  Board members will meet to look the building over.

• PIPELINE:  Fitch said he was pleased to see the pipeline project progressing.  He asked Griffin to meet with Penn Yan Municipal representatives about a proposed "tap" into the pipeline.

• PERSONNEL:  The committee will meet to discuss candidates to fill a board position vacated by Tim Trombley.  Sue Anderson said the committee would have a candidate by the February meeting.

• HOUSING :  Griffin reported the housing study should be completed in a few weeks.

• FINANCE:  A plan was presented outlining consolidation of several CD's and money market funds.

• FAME: Griffin said FAME (Finger Lakes Management Enterprise) had contacted him asking for a one time contribution towards hiring a program co - ordinator.  After some discussion, no action was taken.  Anderson had left the meeting and Chairman Jeff Gifford was absent, so the group did not have a quorum.

The meeting was closed with an executive session to follow.