Expanding The Web

Chautauqua County residents without adequate Internet service will soon have broadband access thanks to $9 million in Empire State Development grants, announced Friday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

According to Vince Horrigan, county executive, additional portal access will expand for rural homes and small medical offices, enabling easier access to electronic medical records.

“It’s about coverage and access across the county,” Horrigan said.

Currently, there are four venues county residents use to access the Internet; cable (through Time Warner); DSL, which is vastly used across the region through Windstream; satellite; and access through cellphones.

“We are working with DFT Communications through this program because they have the ability to provide great services at a great speed at a very reasonable cost,” said Richard Zink, executive director of Southern Tier West Regional Planning.

Zink said several areas in Chautauqua County, outside of cities and villages, don’t have quality Internet access, and the grant addresses increased capacity need.

Southern Tier West has advocated for broadband access across rural regions for the last six years.

“We were informed last summer that we were going to be awarded this grant, and we’ve been working since then with our partners,” Zink said, adding that broadband access is expected to be fully available this summer. “There are a significant amount of people that feel this project needs to be done.”

In addition to DFT’s operating towers in Forestville and Ellery Center, two new provider towers will be constructed in Arkwright and French Creek.

An antennae on top of the tower sends a signal to houses with corresponding receivers, which are roughly the size of a two-liter pop bottle, Zink said.

“This new grant required us to work with providers to get the new standards of broadband,” he said. “Even though some of the areas in the central part of the county may have access, the speed isn’t sufficient. We’re trying to put as many businesses and students on the same infrastructure to take advantage of the resources.”

According to Cuomo, expanding telecommunications helps grow local economies, allowing providers to invest and connect local businesses with new markets.

“DFT is a company that really stood up and said they were willing to work on this,” Zink said. “They see the vision and the need.”

This is the second round of broadband grants to be approved from Cuomo’s $25 million Connect NY broadband grant program available through Regional Economic Development Council awards.