Large parts of urban and rural Erie County are closer to having high-speed broadband for residences and businesses.
Broadband is a big issue: for Buffalo students who can't get access at home so they rely on the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library for the web, to businesses and residences in rural towns like Collins that rely on branches of the same library system. Others rely on DSL, satellite or service to some businesses willing to sign up with companies that supply high-volume customers.
Greenlight Technologies wants to supply fiber web service to customers in the county and is talking with Erie County to sign on to its nascent ErieNet. Policy Director Benjamin Swanekamp said a plan for that county network is to be done by the end of next year.
"Even if no ISPs are interested in working with ErieNet, it'll still provide a valuable service in terms of essentially being Erie County's government internet provider. There's still a role there," Swanekamp said, "but ideally we're going to have ISPs like Greenlight who want to work with us. I spoke to their CEO, Mark Murphy, the day before they made their announcement here and they're very interested in working with us."
The schedule calls for that report and installation of 260 miles of optical fiber lines by the end of 2021 and service starting in 2022.
Swanekamp said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz' high-priority plan is still expected to cost $20 million, partially because almost none of the internet lines would be underground and instead put on utility poles. That is the same cost approach the Seneca Nation is using for its planned network on the Cattaraugus Territory, in the southern end of the county.
However, he said said ErieNet could also help installation of 5G telephone systems.
"Every single 5G micro-cell tower needs a fiber tiedown, and to get the peak speeds for 5G technology. it's a pretty small radius, physically about one city block," he said. "Every single one of those micro-cell towers requires a fiber find, a tiedown. So long term, having more fiber available for a lease to wireless carriers in Erie County is going to help make it easier for 5G rollout for any carrier."