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Broadband stimulus provides windfall for rural New York

Largest broadband stimulus project to build out $39 million fiber network in New York

By Brad Reed, Network World
February 12, 2010 02:10 PM ET

Network World - While several broadband buildouts have received tens of millions of dollars from the federal government, the largest so far is a project that will deploy high-speed broadband all throughout New York State.

The ION Upstate New York Rural Broadband Initiative has received a $39.7 million grant to stretch out its existing fiber network throughout western and upstate New York. Overall, the fiber network will span 1,308 miles and 70 rural communities, and will bring broadband access to an estimated 250,000 households and 38,000 businesses.

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The core of the new network infrastructure will see buildouts in western New York that start in Cooperstown and extend to Elmira and Buffalo. This portion of the network will provide coverage to large chunks of the central and western parts of the state. Further north, meanwhile, the project will build out routes that start in Burlington, Vt., that extend throughout the Adirondack region.

The project is being implemented by ION Hold, the Albany-based owner of a statewide SONET fiber network that connects "over 60 rural New York State communities." Jim Becker, the CEO of ION Hold, says that the broadband stimulus funds will go a long way toward expanding ION's current SONET network, which has been operational for the past five years. Becker says that broadband deployment in rural parts of the state will be a key to helping them develop economically.

"We've seen what our current network has done for rural areas," he says. "We've seen jobs being built up in rural areas and the betterment of rural towns… One of the big things we've seen the expansion of data in rural healthcare, so now you're seeing more video transmissions that can run through rural hospitals."

ION doesn't deliver any last-mile connectivity to customers on its own, however. Instead, it leases out its SONET fiber network to local service providers that have the option of offering customers services that deliver anything from DSL to fiber to the home (FTTH) speeds.

Becker says the project is slated to be completed in just over two years, although the government is giving grant recipients up to three years to finish their work. The project was given the green light late last year by the federal government, which had designated $7.2 billion to fund broadband infrastructure investment in its economic stimulus package.

Of that money, $4.7 billion has been allotted to the NTIA to award grants for projects that will build out broadband infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas, to deliver broadband capabilities for public safety agencies and to stimulate broadband demand through training and education. The remaining $2.5 billion in broadband stimulus money has been allotted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make loans to companies building out broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

Read more about lans & wans in Network World's LANs & WANs section.

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