Partner needed for broadband


By Patsy Nicosia

The next step in getting broadband to the 800-some Schoharie County homes on the “last mile?”
Finding someone like MidTel, Margaretville Phone, or even Spectrum to serve as a private partner.
Supervisors’ Economic Development Committee got an update on the $31.5 million project Thursday.
Consultant Farr Technologies is proposing first four fiber optics huts to extend the service, SEEC’s Julie Pacatte said; service to 80 percent of the unserved will take place in the first year with the remaining 20 percent—mostly Preston Hollow—in the second, with work beginning in 2025.
Both state and federal funding will be available, totaling more than $42 billion, but it will be for build-out, not running the systems.
For the project to move forward now, Ms. Pacatte said, the county needs to find a provider willing to serve as a private-public partner, someone who will own and operate the system.
She suggested having each supervisor contact the providers already in their town, someone they already have a franchise with, to see if they’re interested in taking on the countywide project.
County Administrator Korsah Akumfi could do the same with MidTel and Margaretville Phone.
“Time is of the essence,” said Economic Development Committee chair Alicia Terry of Gilboa.
“The feds are getting ready to roll the money out to the states.”
But, she said, it’s the private-public partners who need to apply for them—not the counties.
Ms. Pacatte said supervisors might want to use some of the remaining ARPA monies allocated for broadband to hire professionals to do the bulk of that kind of work.
She also suggested a local Task Force “to bang the drum so interest in this doesn’t die out.”
A countywide system—and not town-by-town--would be easier to manage, Ms. Pacatte said.
It was also Farr’s recommendation.
Grant funding will require a 25 percent match, likely a combination of county and private funding, Ms. Pacatte said.
“I know the numbers are big,” said Paul Conboy, a member of SEEC’s Advisory Boaqrd. “But so are the benefits.”
According to the Farr report, the expanded broadband will increase small business sales by $196.4 million over three years as a result of better access to and better use of technology.
It will also create 1,240 new jobs and with them, $52.1 million in increased wages.
Additional sales tax revenues are estimated at $7.9 million.
“It’s also the notion of who’s left behind,” Ms. Pacatte said. “Whether you’re talking access to electricity, plumbing, water, sewer…this is infrastructure. We’re talking about equity.”