Four Cities in Westchester County, New York, Look for a Gigabit

While New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo focuses on improving Internet access in rural areas upstate, Westchester County is finding its own path to next-generation connectivity.

The county's largest cities are partnering with the county association to bring high-speed Internet access to every household, businesses, healthcare facilities, and educational organizations in the next three to five years. 

Four Cities Together

In early October, the Westchester County Association and the cities of Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains, and Yonkers announced the formation of the Smart Growth Gigabit initiative. The cities entered into the “Smart City ComPACT” to collectively apply for funding, collaborate on innovation districts, and develop joint legislative agendas. 

The cities are considering a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project to provide Gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) connectivity necessary for telemedicine, digital learning, and economic development. Officials estimate the project will cost about $750 million, based on the costs of similar projects in communities with like populations (405,000 people total). The cities could own and build the network themselves or partner with a private provider; they have not yet decided on which model to pursue.

Smart Growth

The Gigabit Initiative is part of Westchester County Association’s Blueprint for Smart Growth plan. The association is assembling a steering committee of members from Westchester’s cities, healthcare, biotech, education, business, and nonprofit sectors. The collaboration has been described as a public private partnership because Westchester County Association is a private entity.

Westchester County has six cities and 19 towns, and is home to several large companies including the biotech company Regeneron and the technology company IBM. Several of the towns are also interested in taking part in the Smart Growth initiative.

Volunteer Advisor: Think Long-Term

Blair Levin has joined the project as a volunteer advisor. He has been hailed as the architect of the National Broadband Plan and is the current Executive Director of Gig.U: The Next Generation Network Innovation Project. 

Levin recently spoke at a luncheon organized by Westchester County Association. Reminding folks to take a long-term perspective on the project, Levin made his key points:

“There are many paths up the mountain … First, get everyone on; Second, use the platform to better deliver public goods and services; Third, help every enterprise to become a networked empowered enterprise; Fourth, make sure your network accommodates the next technology shifts.”