Tonawanda News

Local News

October 10, 2012

Broadband survey funds sought

Tonawanda News — RIDGEWAY — The effort to pursue state funding to study accessibility to broadband Internet in rural areas in Orleans and Niagara counties is moving forward despite roadblocks encountered by municipal officials and technology experts behind the push.

A group representing both counties has applied for a $250,000 grant from the $25 million Connect NY Broadband Grant Program to complete a door-to-door survey of residents in areas that are unserved and underserved by high-speed Internet services.

Ridgeway Town Supervisor Brian Napoli and other local officials attended an information session held last month by the state’s Broadband Program Office. Napoli said it a “frustrating” experience, as the initial response was that funding is only available for projects that are shovel-ready.

”We’re asking for money for the study, but they said the grant is only for building (broadband infrastructure),” Napoli said. “They have to see if they can fund the study ... we’re waiting for a legal definition.”

Undeterred, the group still applied for grant funding before the Broadband Office’s Oct. 5 deadline.

”The worst answer we could get is ‘no,’ “ said IT professional Evhen Tupis, a Clarendon resident volunteering to assist the effort. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Tupis, a principal for BP Greene and Associates, believes that much could be gained from the survey, which he said will better measure broadband availability and interest, and in turn provide an enticement for infrastructure investments.

”The idea is to do the heavy lifting with the market study, and then use the intelligence from that study to find the most cost-effective and sustainable way to provide service,” said Tupis, who added that there should be no cost to taxpayers. “The last thing we want to do is invoke a service that would have to be subsidized by the municipalities.”

The officials pursuing the grant have already conducted “mini studies” in Barre, Elba and Wilson, where more than 600 surveyed residences did not have access to broadband internet.

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