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southern tier network
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Nichols, New York Pushes Forward On Open Access Fiber Network
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.
Empire State Climbs Toward Expanded Connectivity
From New York City to Newfield in Upstate New York, local officials in the Empire State have kicked off projects to connect the unconnected to high-speed Internet service.
The biggest of those projects is underway in New York City as Mayor Bill de Blasio recently delivered an early Christmas present for city dwellers who want to see a term-limit set on the digital divide in the Big Apple.
America’s most populous metropolis (est. pop. 8.6 million) is investing $157 million to build publicly owned, open access broadband infrastructure that will lay the groundwork local officials say will enable high-speed wireless Internet access for up to 1.6 million city residents over the next 36 months.
Even as the city is on track to bring free or low-cost Internet service to 40,000 residents living in 18 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments by the end of the year, this latest initiative aims to expand the city’s existing fiber infrastructure while drawing on minority and women-owned Internet Service Providers to help deliver “fast, reliable, and affordable connectivity options to an additional 70,000 NYCHA residents and 150,000 residents in the surrounding communities by early 2022,” the Mayor’s Office explained in a press release announcing the initiative.
“Broadband isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity,” de Blasio said. “We are closing the digital divide and bringing our city into the 21st century by reaching communities most in need.”
New York City Chief Technology Officer John Paul Farmer characterized the effort as evidence that city officials are “transforming the broadband marketplace.”
No matter your zip code, every New Yorker deserves an equal opportunity to participate in building our shared future. The New York City Internet Master Plan has enabled the Big Apple’s unprecedented progress in promoting digital equity and making that idealistic vision a practical reality. New York City’s bold new approach delivers cross-sector partnerships, incorporates cutting-edge technologies, upgrades performance, and ensures affordability for residents and businesses.
Mobilizing ‘NYC Internet Master Plan’
Southern Tier Network Releases RFP: Responses Due September 28th
Not-for-profit Southern Tier Network (STN) is already providing infrastructure for local ISP Empire Access to compete with incumbents in some areas of south central New York state. Now that the dark fiber network construction is complete, STN recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a last mile broadband pilot project. Responses are due September 28, 2017.
For this project, STN seeks ISPs interested in serving a particular area in Schuyler County with the possibility of expanding to serve more premises in the future. The area in question is underserved for both residential and business connectivity.
Connectivity Opportunity In Rural New York
The network began as a partnership between Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board, Corning Incorporated, and Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben Counties. Corning contributed $10 million of the $12.2 million to deploy the original network, while the three counties shared the balance.
In 2013, STN received a $5 million New York Empire State Development fund grant, which allowed the nonprofit to expand the network into two more counties and to several local universities. The original 235-mile ring has since been extended to include more than 500 route miles. The network now touches nine counties.
Since becoming operational in 2014, STN has taken on a multifaceted task. In addition to establishing infrastructure to encourage better connectivity for residents and businesses, STN is serving public entities. The dark fiber network is improving local connectivity for public safety, schools, health care clinics, and municipal facilities.
Pilot With Larger Goals In Mind
Goals of the initiative, as stated in the RFP are:
1. Establish partnerships between the STN and interested providers for the betterment of the communities involved and for quality of life enhancements.
Southern Tier Network Continues Fiber Expansion in Upstate New York
The Southern Tier Network (STN), a community-owned dark fiber network that spans multiple counties in upstate New York, enables fast, affordable, reliable Internet access in New York’s Southern Tier region. Locally based private Internet service provider Empire Access offers services via the network as it continues to expand.
The Corning Leader reports that Empire Access intends to offer residential Internet access over the STN in the Cities of Corning and Elmira sometime in the next year.
Empire Access, which offers current customers Internet access, voice, and 200-plus Digital TV channels, is waiting to launch services in Corning and Elmira until after they gain approval from the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) to provide digital TV services in these communities. Although the company could begin offering fiber and phone services at any time, the company wants to be able to offer the full bundle of options before they officially launch in Coring and Elmira.
As Stop the Cap! wrote in a June 2015 article about the STN, the business strategy at Empire Access is focused on bringing Internet access to areas of the state where Verizon refuses to go and where Time Warner Cable’s service tops out at 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 5 Mbps upload. For current residential customers, Empire Access offers bundled services about $30 per month on average less than competitors.
In addition Corning and Elmira, Empire Service now provides triple play services via the STN Network to the City of Hornell, the Town of Bath, and the Village of Watkins Glen.
Economic Benefits of the STN
What's Next For Southern Tier Network?
With construction of a major community broadband network behind them, local leaders in New York State’s Southern Tier region are now considering the potential for the recently completed dark fiber network.
Since becoming operational in 2014, the Southern Tier Network (STN) is already serving over 100 industrial and government service entities across the region. STN is a not-for-profit, local development corporation that built, owns, and manages the network for the region.
Jack Benjamin, president of economic development organization, Three Rivers Development Corporation, explained the value of the network to the region in a July Star Gazette article:
This backbone fiber that we've got here is a huge benefit for us going forward. As this technology piece continues to be even more important in the future, because it's going to be changing all the time, we will have the base here that allows us to change with the marketplace. Part of our thought process here is we want to keep what we've got in terms of businesses and provide the infrastructure that allows them to stay here and be competitive.
Building Out for the Future
When we wrote about the STN in 2011, the planned backbone of the network included a 235-mile fiber-optic ring stretching across Steuben, Schuyler, and Chemung counties. Glass producer Corning paid for $10 million of the initial $12.2 million cost to deploy with the remaining balance paid for by the three counties where the network is located. The STN is now 260 miles total, including strands that run to city centers and select business areas in the tri-county area.
Last-Mile FTTH Via Nonprofit Networks in New York State
Western New York residents are welcoming the presence of a new Internet service provider, Empire Access, competing directly with Time Warner Cable and Verizon. Besides satisfied customers, no data caps, and no usage-based billing, Empire is different from the incumbents in another way - it uses nonprofit network infrastructure to deliver services.
StopTheCap writes that Empire Access utilizes the Southern Tier Network (STN) to connect to communities in Steuben, Chemung, and Schuyler Counties in its southern service area. STN's 235-mile backbone was deployed when fiber-optic manufacturer Corning contributed $10 million to build the network and the three counties contributed the remaining $2.2 million. Construction on the open access network was finished in the spring of 2014.
Axcess Ontario provides the fiber route in the northern region of the Empire Access service area. The network is also a non-profit model and similarly developed to serve business, community anchor institutions, and ISPs. The organization began 10 years ago with the establishment of the nonprofit. The Ontario County Office of Economic Development /Industrial Development Agency provided startup costs to deploy the $7.5 million middle-mile open access dark fiber network. Axcess Ontario is also over 200 miles long.
For now, the locally-owned company that began in 1896 with one telephone and grew from there, is taking a different approach then its much larger competitors. From StopTheCap:
Empire targets compact villages with a relatively affluent populations where no other fiber overbuilder is providing service. It doesn’t follow Google’s “fiberhood” approach where neighborhoods compete to be wired. Instead, it provides service across an entire village and then gradually expands to nearby towns from there.
Three Counties in New York Building Southern Tier Network
Local governments, educational institutions, health care organizations and other commercial/industrial businesses also stand to benefit greatly, said Marcia Weber, Southern Tier Central executive director. Possible applications include “distance learning” between college campus branches and “telemedicine” between rural clinics and major hospitals, Weber said. … The project has been a top priority for Southern Tier Central in recent years. Weber, who called it “her passion,” was very disappointed when a major federal stimulus grant was narrowly missed last year. The counties’ share (Steuben, $1.23 million; Chemung, $790,000; Schuyler, $188,000) will fund a non-profit, to be called Southern Tier Network, that has been created to oversee and maintain the network.The project starts this year and expects to be finished by 2013. In 2014, the project is expected to become self-sustainable -- being funded by the fees it charges for access to the infrastructure. A fact sheet on the project [pdf] explains the governing structure:
Southern Tier Network is a new not-for-profit, local development corporation (LDC) established to own, build and manage a $12.2 million regional fiber optic backbone that will enable access to the highest speed broadband connectivity available in Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben Counties. Articles of Incorporation for Southern Tier Network have been filed with New York State, and a board of directors is in place, comprised of representatives from the three counties and other community stakeholders.