DRYDEN — The town of Dryden is on track to choose a provider and begin customer installations this fall, becoming one of the first municipal broadband providers in New York. The town’s broadband access committee, on Friday, discussed the next steps to take.
The project has been in the works since 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on the challenges residents face when they don’t have proper access to the internet, especially in rural areas.
“We want to provide broadband to every household,” said Deputy Town Supervisor Dan Lamb in April, shortly after Tompkins and Cortland county officials showed support for the state requiring internet service providers to offer $15 a month service to qualifying low-income households.
Providing broadband would cost $14.53 million and take several years to lay fiber-optic cables to every customer in the town of Dryden, according to a 2019 presentation by Ryan Garrison of Hunt Engineering.
In May, the committee estimated that phase one of the project would cost $2.4 million — including $1.25 million from an Appalachion Regional Commission grant, $1.15 million from the American Rescue Plan, $625,000 from the local share and $727,000 is the variable cost for customers’ installation, reports the town board.
As the project’s budget solidifies, Garrison’s team is interviewing service providers and stocking up on equipment and material to begin phase one in the coming weeks.
Although a distribution company has set aside the fiber optic cable needed for phase one, Garrison said Hunt is facing delays with some of the other materials, such as the closures for tubes that go on the electricity poles.
“They’re very hard to get right now, so we’re actually demoing one called an apex closure,” Garrison said. “What we want to do is see if it fits everything we want to put into it, and then see if that fits in the ground box we’ve sized out.”
The pieces are expected to arrive by the end of next week.
“As soon as we put all these bits and pieces together, we’ll know that the solution is going to work the way we want it to,” Garrison said.
Next, the team will find out the expected labor costs and price of wholesale bandwidth from several network communications companies.
Town Supervisor Jason Leifer said the town board wants Hunt Engineering to recommend the best bandwidth option.
“They’re going to want to know if there were other options looked at, and why this one?’ Leifer said.
Garrison said Hunt has gotten responses from several bandwidth vendors showing interest.
“I think the question for us will be, ‘do we approve multiple vendors or do we approve one vendor? What do we want to do for that piece of the project?’” Garrison said. “That’s coming in August and should be fairly straightforward, we’re just going to need to know what kind of closures we’re going to use.”
“We’ll know by next Thursday — basically, we have a demo of a product, and once we see if that all fits together then that all will come as one purchase order to the town,” Garrison added.
Garrison’s team has been in contact with four provider companies, including Ciena, Calix, Empire Access and Nokia working with Graybar.
“They’ve all got their certain advantages and disadvantages — some are market leaders, some are new to the market,” Garrison said. “Calix was very driven to the customer experience, Nokia a little less so but not completely. Ciena is very bare bones as far as the customer goes, but their gear is very good. So we’re just trying to stir some thoughts with the committee here.”
The town board will consider Thursday and may vote to assign the website, contract and bandwidth, Leifer said.