Nichols, New York (pop. 2,300) is the latest U.S. community to embrace open access, community-run fiber as an alternative to monopoly power. The upstate New York town, saddled among rolling green hills close to the Pennsylvania border, hopes the new initiative will boost broadband availability and lower costs.
A nonprofit by the name of the Southern Tier Network (STN) has been tasked with building the Nichols fiber network. In a September status update, STN officials stated that five miles of fiber had already been deployed, and they’re waiting for New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) and Verizon to approve requests to use local utility poles to string more.
In-home installations began on September 12th. So far the open access network only serves as home to one ISP: Ithaca, New York based Fiberspark, which currently offers locals broadband tiers ranging from 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) down and 20 Mbps up for $40/month to a symmetrical gigabit per second (Gbps) tier for $80 per month.
The project was made possible by New York State’s ConnectALL initiative, a $1 billion broadband expansion effort recently heralded as one of the biggest investments in broadband infrastructure in state history. The program was financed through existing state funds and a significant infusion courtesy of federal funds.
The program created a Broadband Assessment Program and Interactive Map administered by the state’s Public Service Commission. It also created three new state grant programs to shore up lagging broadband access, and created a new affordable housing connectivity program to drive affordable connectivity options to marginalized and underserved New York communities.
Unlike many state and federal initiatives, the program specifically heralds the productively disruptive role municipal broadband efforts will play in expanding access and opportunity to neighborhoods long left behind due to unchecked regional telecom monopolization.