ITHACA, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Legislature voted to move forward with the long-awaited broadband resolution and nix Tompkins County Council of Government’s (TCCOG) request to more fully consider a countywide broadband system at the monthly meeting June 21.
Tompkins County Department of Planning and Sustainability retained ECC Technologies, a national broadband, technology and security firm, to conduct a nine-month study to determine which homes, and how many, are without internet access.
The results of the study, which came out about six weeks ago according to County Legislator Dan Klein, sparked comments from TCCOG officials.
Officials asked legislators to send the broadband resolution back to the Housing and Development Committee to ensure it fully explores a countywide, municipally- owned, broadband service.
In a Housing and Development Committee meeting earlier this month, Legislator Mike Sigler adamantly expressed the importance of sending the resolution forward to get the next steps in the process rolling.
“TCCOG is a nice group, but they are not the county legislators,” he said. “I won’t keep postponing this at the will of one town or two towns, and I would like to see us move ahead.”
Consultants from ECC did examine this option fully, according to Sigler, and the estimate provided to make a municipally owned broadband service a reality is far too high for the county to seriously consider, even with assistance from the state and grants.
Klein said the consultants estimated a price tag of about $80-100 million so it is “unlikely” the legislators “go that route.”
The version they ended up sending forward is estimated to cost about $7 million, a figure that includes federal assistance and additional grants.
“There’s a lot of federal money out there,” Klein said. “We expect a pretty good chunk of it to be covered by that.” He said the legislators also expect local internet service providers and the county to also cover part of the bill.
The legislators were divided in voting to go ahead and send the request for proposal, as is, without the requested additional information on a countywide system with a 6-8 decision.
Legislator Mike Lane said in the meeting on June 21 that such “Countywide broadband would be prohibitively expensive.”
The results of the study by ECC consultants identified 1,200 local locations that are unserved by broadband internet access.
That is around 3.9% of the nearly 31,000 local locations in the county, according to the legislature’s website.
Klein said the time estimate for “even the simplest” version of the resolution would be 3-5 years away and “that’s a long time to wait for people who don’t have the internet at home.”