County leadership from Schuyler, Steuben, Chemung, Tioga, and Yates together with local businesses and residents have recognized that universal access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband is an essential service. Access to broadband delivers important benefits to our communities. Published research indicates that higher levels of broadband adoption lead to economic growth, higher incomes and lower unemployment. Broadband also plays an important role in fostering positive social outcomes including telemedicine, democratizing education and fostering social support structures.
Each County was working independently for several years to identify approaches to improve access to broadband services across their jurisdictions. Recognizing the complexity, cost and expertise that is required for this initiative, it was determined that collaborating as a coalition would benefit all of the counties. In addition, it became clear that a multi-county coalition would improve the potential of being awarded the necessary federal and state grant funds that will be required for a buildout to occur.
The Southern Tier Broadband Coalition (STBC) codified their intent in an Inter-Municipal Agreement (IMA) signed in February 2020. Under the IMA, Southern Tier Network (STN) was authorized to lead and coordinate a broadband feasibility study. STBC formed a small, agile working group, composed of 2 county officials from each County and STN’s CEO, who will oversee the study and its results.
The Coalition will leverage STN’s expertise in building and operating its existing telecommunications infrastructure and its access to industry thought leaders in the broadband space to ensure the study is comprehensive and decision ready. If a decision is made to move forward and deliver broadband access to selected areas, the Coalition will leverage STN’s existing 600+ mile, open access fiber network to enable affordable Internet service to residents and businesses in those areas.
The feasibility study will provide the Coalition with a unified plan to provide access to affordable broadband Internet services to certain unserved/underserved residents and businesses in the five counties. The study will: 1) identify the unserved and underserved areas and estimate interest from residents to purchase potential broadband services; 2) recommend a network architecture and outside plant equipment; 3) recommend a deployment plan; 4) identify potential funding sources; and 5) develop a business and financial roadmap to deliver internet service to selected areas.
Following completion of the study, STN’s Board will consider and provisionally approve the study’s recommendation to construct and extend STN’s network to serve these areas. Subsequently, each County will need to gain approval from their respective legislatures for the final recommendation and project launch.