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FAQs - Southern Tier Network


Who is Southern Tier Network?

Southern Tier Network is a nonprofit 501(c) 3, local development corporation (LDC) established in 2011.  STN builds, owns, operates, and leases broadband dark-fiber capacity on its regional, low cost, high-speed telecommunications network.

How was the Southern Tier Network formed?

The Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board (STC) had been working for several years to increase access to affordable broadband infrastructure in our region. As part of those efforts, STC applied for federal funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).  STC’s bid for funding, which had reached the final stages, was denied in 2010 because NTIA did not have sufficient resources to fund the project. In addition, an application to Google’s 2010 “Think Big with a Gig” Fiber for Communities grants program was put on hold by Google.  In the wake of these setbacks, STC moved forward via public private partnerships to build the broadband infrastructure to achieve the original objectives of economic development, affordable access to broadband services within the region.  STC continued its efforts to secure the funding and partners necessary to launch the initiative and was joined by Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben Counties, ECC Technologies, Inc., and Corning Incorporated to establish The Southern Tier Network.

Why was the network built?

STN’s mission is to enable universal access to affordable broadband services and promote economic growth in the New York State Southern Tier region.

STN will achieve its mission by building coalitions among public and private organizations to construct and maintain low cost, open-access outside plant broadband infrastructure to drive economic growth and adoption of affordable broadband services across the region including un-served and under-served rural communities.

STN aspires to be a catalyst for regional economic growth and affordable broadband capabilities and access via high-speed fiber-to-the-premises and wireless technologies.

Who can access the network?

Southern Tier Network leases capacity on its network to telecommunication carriers, Internet service providers, governments, K-12 and Higher Education, healthcare organizations, and commercial and industrial enterprises.

Does this network compete with existing telecommunication networks in the Southern Tier region?

No.  STN’s infrastructure compliments and extends the region’s existing telecommunications infrastructure and enables route diversity to ensure greater network reliability.

How will this network impact existing regional enterprise, carrier and service providers?

STN’s network complements existing infrastructure.  The network delivers low-cost, middle mile bandwidth capacity to the region; offers diverse routes to improve reliability; provides critical municipal telecommunication infrastructure for interoffice connectivity and advanced 911 capabilities.  Broadband capacity on STN’s network can be leased by any organization that requires a secure, middle mile, 100 gig/sec broadband infrastructure.

What are the benefits of this network?

The new broadband infrastructure offers significant benefits to the region including: State-of-the-art broadband infrastructure that provides significant bandwidth and symmetrical speeds of up to 100 gig/sec; Connecting public safety towers and 911 centers; Enabling greater access to affordable broadband services in rural areas; Enabling future deployment of high speed wireless capabilities and greater penetration of “fiber-to-the-premises” capacity; and lower municipal telecommunication costs, enabling cost-saving shared services between municipalities.

Will local taxes be increased to support the network?

No.  STN is self-sustaining and receives no ongoing funding from local municipalities or counties.  STN generates its own cash flow from its customer base via fiber capacity leases on STN’s network.

How is STN funded?

STN received it initial funding from Corning Incorporated and three counties.  Corning Incorporated’s gift of $10 million paid for the construction cost of the original 235-mile telecommunication infrastructure.  Financial support from three founding counties provided funds to pay for ongoing annual operating expenses of Southern Tier Network during its start-up phase.  In exchange for the municipalities’ one-time financial payment, each county received specific amount of broadband capacity on the network for term of 30+ years, to reduce their respective communications costs for public safety and interoffice communications.

STN has continued to leverage state and federal grants and its own cash flow to expand the network from the original 235 miles to over 600 miles spanning eight counties.  STN’s investment in its network is over $25 million.

Will taxpayers benefit from STN’s network?

Yes.  The network will increase access and competition to broadband services and products.  This should drive competition, create lower service costs, increase broadband product offerings and with higher quality and reliability to organizations and residences within the region.

Does STN provide Internet Service?

No.  Southern Tier Network does NOT provide internet service.  STN has alliances with several internet services providers (ISPs) who, depending on the location of the customer, may be able to offer internet, telephony, security, television and other services for a reoccurring monthly fee.

What is an Open Access Network?

When people refer to “open access”, they’re referring to the concept that government funding of a network like STN, shouldn’t favor one competitor over another, or reinforce incumbent monopolies.  STN’s business model was designed with this approach in mind.  STN’s network is available to any organization including incumbent Internet service providers or dark fiber competitors on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.  This approach fosters digital equality and equity, leading to a marketplace that makes access and bandwidth universally available and affordable.

What is Net Neutrality?

This refers to an environment where Internet Service Providers (ISPs) allow equal access to content without playing favorites.  It is an approach that not all ISPs endorse because it would likely reduce the profit opportunity they gain by charging content providers bandwidth premiums – enabling the bigger providers more market clout than smaller one, and pushing the cost on to consumers.  This approach also ensures that ISPs can’t block or limit access to the content you want.

What is Broadband?

Reliable high-speed internet, defined by the Federal Communications Commission as having download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. It can be delivered via multiple technologies, including fiber, fixed wireless, digital subscriber line (DSL), or cable. Certain states have different definitions of broadband.

What is the Internet backbone?

The primary data routes on the Internet, including those that transport Internet traffic between countries.  It consists of high-capacity fiber-optic lines that carry large amounts of data. Local or regional networks can connect to the backbone for long-distance data transmission. Commercial, government, and academic centers typically own these lines.

What is an Internet service provider (ISP)?

A company that provides individuals, businesses, anchor institutions, etc., with a connection to the Internet. ISPs include telephone and cable companies, wireless ISPs, electric cooperatives, municipal utilities, and mobile wireless providers. They use different technologies, including fiber, cable, DSL, and fixed wireless, to deliver Internet service to their customers.

What does “Last mile” mean?

The part of a telecommunications network that connects the local provider to the residential or small-business customer.

What does “Middle mile” mean?

A physical network that links the backbone to local Internet networks, often called last-mile networks. In some communities, the middle mile may connect community anchor institutions to each other, enabling them to share applications, infrastructure, and other resources.

Why is broadband Speed important?

The rate at which a device can send or receive data.  Speed is defined for both download (the rate at which data are sent from the internet to a device) and upload (the rate at which data are sent from a device to the internet). Speeds are conveyed in megabits per second.  Advanced application such as 4 and 5G wireless telephony, Internet of Things (IoT), SMART city technologies, remote/distance working and video services require high speed and significant bandwidth capacity to operate effectively and seamlessly for the user.

What does “Take rate” mean?

The percentage of customers within an ISP’s service area who subscribe to, or “take” service.

How is an “Unserved area” defined?

Areas that lack access to broadband service as defined by the state program.

How is “Underserved area” defined?

Areas that have Internet service at speeds higher than those that are defined as unserved but lower than those that have broadband service as defined by the state program.