Network shifts south

Gwen Chamberlain The Chronicle-Express
This map of the Southern Tier Network is found on the network's website, www.southerntiernetwork.org

When Yates County develops its open access fiber network, it will be working with the Southern Tier Network instead of Access Ontario based in Ontario County.

The Yates County Legislature adopted a resolution Dec. 30 authorizing Legislative Chairman Timothy Dennis to continue negotiations with STN to develop agreements that will result in STN constructing, owning, managing and marketing the network.

According to County Administrator Sarah Purdy, a Yates County negotiating team had been meeting with a similar team in Ontario County, where contractor ECC Technologies manages the network, to come up with a plan for Yates County’s network to be managed by Access Ontario.

“Both sides tried to come up with a mutually agreeable solution, but it just wasn’t possible,” she said, adding, “We were very grateful to Access Ontario for trying to work with us and we still look forward to connecting with them. In the end it will be a regional broadband network.”

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.

One local company that is already bringing its high speed connectivity to customers through STN is Empire Access, based in Prattsburgh. (See related article in Top Stories.)

STN is developing plans to expand its network into Broome and Tioga Counties. ECC Technologies, the private company which manages Access Ontario also consults with STN.

The Yates County network will include portions built into Ontario and Schuyler Counties to connect the northern and southern networks.

Open access networks are the backbone for private companies to build from to provide high speed internet access to customers. The network does not provide the services to end users.

Legislators Elden Morrison and Gary Montgomery opposed the resolution at the Dec. 30 meeting. Morrison said he felt the resolution was premature since a route for the backbone network has not been finalized. “We just do not have enough information to vote on this. Every time we get a little deeper and a little further down the road... it gets harder to stop,” he said, later adding that he would like to discuss the issue in more detail at the February Finance Committee meeting. According to Morrison, the county has already spent over $300,000 on the project.

Morrison’s amendment to table the resolution until after the February Finance Committee meeting failed, with he and Montgomery casting the only votes for the amendment.

Dennis said Morrison had previously made his points, but said “There’s a reason this is on today’s agenda and we need to keep going on this.” He declined to give more details about the need for immediate action, saying negotiations are ongoing.

District I Legislator Douglas Paddock, chairman of the finance committee, said passage of the resolution will allow the transfer of information about the project to STN “so they can get some of the answers to questions that have been asked.”

Yates County Planner Shawna Bonshak told the legislators Yates County is ready to immediately begin the transfer.

Purdy says legislators heard comments from county taxpayers at public meetings regarding the plan to work with Access Ontario, but AO’s model would not allow the county to accommodate issues brought up by the public.

She says STN officials have been “absolutely fabulous” to work with.

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 Yates County team that has been negotiating with Access Ontario and STN includes Dennis, Purdy, District I Legislator Douglas Paddock, District II Legislator James Smith, Yates County Planner Shawna Bonshack, Treasurer Nonie Flynn and Attorney Scott Falvey.

Negotiations with STN began in September and developments happened rather quickly.

The Dec. 30 resolution authorizes the continued negotiations as well as spending from the reserve fund to meet milestones in development including fiber design, surveys, development of construction drawings, and revisions to documents reflecting STN ownership.

STN, based in Corning, is governed by a board of directors that includes representatives from each county and is chaired by Marcia Weber, executive director of  Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board.

For details about STN, visit www.southertiernetwork.org.