In October 2015, government officials in Erie County, New York announced the release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking an organization to study the feasibility of building a county-wide broadband network. Located in upstate New York and home to over 900,000 people, Erie County stretches over 1,200 square feet; the county seat is Buffalo.
Legislator Patrick Burke notes that community broadband projects have become a rare kind of government-led initiative that appeals to people across all political divides:
“It covers all grounds and sort of goes beyond political ideology. It’s a quality service. It could provide revenues that the county desperately needs, it could attract business, it could spark economic development and it could create jobs. So, there’s a little bit in this for everybody,” said Burke.
Pursuing Governor Cuomo's "Broadband for All" Mission
The effort to pursue the option to build the network in Erie County comes after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released his “Broadband for All” plan earlier this year. The plan offers matching state funds up to $500 million to private companies that agree to help build broadband networks in underserved areas of the state. The governor’s initiative led the Erie County broadband committee and a group of industry experts to write an exploratory white paper considering ideas for expanding broadband in the region.
According to an article in The Public, Burke credits the white paper as the tool that convinced county leaders to issue the RFP to be ready when private partners come calling:
“Whichever municipalities or governments, or even private entities, are prepared and are in line to be competitive with this, they’re the ones who are likely to see the funds that are available,” Burke said.