November 28, 2021

Dryden urged to seek $3M for broadband

Town of Dryden Logo

DRYDEN — A federal agency has encouraged the town of Dryden to apply for a $3 million grant to help establish municipal broadband service.

With or without the grant, town Supervisor Jason Leifer said Friday, town leaders would like to begin the project by the end of the year. One other community, Delaware County, is working on a similar project, reports the website Broadbandnow, but Dryden’s would be one of the first two municipal broadband services in New York.

The project, which has been in the works since spring 2019, would provide internet access to homes across Dryden. Currently, 10% of the town does not have internet access.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development office said it has a program that could defray the estimated $14.5 million cost by $3 million, perhaps more.

“The program is providing world broadband, and I got the sense from the USDA that they want to partner with us,” said Dan Lamb, the deputy town supervisor. “A representative there felt our project had a good shot of winning the grant money.”

Leifer said the town doesn’t need the grants to make the project work, but $3 million does validate the program — as well as reduce town costs.

The town has received a lot of positive feedback from residents regarding a town-owned broadband service that would provide them with better internet speed and connection quality.

“We’re ready to do it, we have everything in place,” Leifer said. “We are waiting for a decision from the town for the final business model’s basic design for the initial loop we have to build.”

The approval of this project and the USDA grant would give other municipalities the incentive to explore their own broadband options, he said. The town has until July to apply and would hear of a decision by December.

“We may roll out on a small scale in Dryden before then,” Lamb said. “The project has six phases and we are trying to reach one segment of the town in each of those six phases as we build out the network.”

Lamb and Leifer have been meeting with rural municipalities across the nation to discuss effective broadband models. The town board is considering two options:

  • An open system, with the municipality funding and constructing a fiber network for privately owned companies.
  • The town owning the network itself.

Leifer said town officials are leaning toward the latter.

“We are looking for the best practices and proven systems that work and we will try to model ours after that,” Lamb said.

Leifer and Lamb hope to pick a business model for the town board to consider in time for the next town board meeting at 6 p.m. March 11.