Yates County OKs STN broadband deal

Gwen Chamberlain

Construction on the open access broadband network in Yates County could begin as soon as this summer, now that the Yates County Legislature has authorized an agreement with Southern Tier Network, based in Steuben County.

Yates County Administrator Sarah Purdy says the design work that was put on hold last fall will resume and county officials will begin looking into the next round of state grants that could help pay for expanding the network.

April 30 Legislators unanimously voted, without comment, to authorize Chairman Timothy Dennis to sign the agreement with STN that lays the foundation for the construction of the network. One legislator — Daniel Banach of Milo — was absent.

Before the vote, the legislators met in executive session to discuss details of the agreement.

With the network, Yates County residents will see high speed internet services become available in locations where it was previously not. Purdy says the overall level of capacity and capability for customers such as the hospital, college, and government will offer new opportunities for productivity. Residential customers will eventually see opportunities once companies like Empire Access, based in Prattsburgh, begin to use the network to build their own service area.

Yates County will receive the use of 12 strands of the fiber strictly for county use.

Purdy says STN will own the network, and a private company, ECC Technologies, will manage it. ECC Technologies also manages the network in neighboring Ontario County. The Yates County network links STN and Ontario County networks, closing a gap in the Finger Lakes Region.

“We don’t want to own the broadband,” said Purdy, explaining Yates County is not is a position to develop a utility department.

“We do have final say over the construction of the broadband,” she added, noting Yates County will have a non-voting position on the STN Board of Directors. “STN and ECC are going to want to pay very close attention to what we want,” she said Friday, later adding, “We will have the ability to be involved in high level decisions.”

The broadband network will be built in sections, or phases, with construction in more than one section at a time. The phases (sections) are:

• Geneva to Dresden; Dresden to Penn Yan and Keuka College for 25.5 miles.

• Dresden to Watkins Glen for 22.7 miles

• Penn Yan to Potter and Route 14 to Dundee for a total of 14.2 miles.

When the route is finalized, the entire network will span about 70 miles.

Some options that may be possible, depending on funding, could include a spur to the airport from Penn Yan; a spur past the Yates County Chamber of Commerce toward the auto dealership; Keuka Park to Branchport; and Potter to Rushville.

Purdy says once the documents and maps are finalized, they will be bound and made available to the public. The maps will also be available on the county’s website, and public presentations will be planned to share details about the network.

In 2013 Yates County received a state grant of more than $2.4 million to help finance the construction of an open access network. Legislators also established a reserve fund with $600,000 from proceeds from the sale of the Certified Home Health Agency service to Lifetime Care in 2012.

The county has spent about $200,000 of its local match for the grant, according to Purdy.

“The vote last night was monumental,” said Purdy, adding. “What’s coming is the provision of a new level of technology that otherwise would not happen here.

The dark fiber network provides the backbone for companies to provide high speed internet service to end users. This is infact the only way we can get this done. We have carriers who are already interested in ‘lighting’ the fiber.” she adds.

The Southern Tier Network has built a 260 mile broadband ring throughout Steuben, Schuyler and Chemung Counties that enables high speed broadband connectivity and connects to other regional open access networks.