SALAMANCA — Hundreds of homes and businesses in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties are closer to getting new high-speed broadband internet service in the coming year.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced phase 3 awards for the New NY Broadband Program Wednesday with $209.6 million in state funding leveraging $132.1 million in private investment. That $341.8 million will provide broadband service to an additional 122,285 homes and businesses.

State officials are looking for an additional $170 million in federal broadband funding that companies did not use in New York.

Richard Zink, executive director of the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board, who has been seeking broadband funding for Cattaraugus, Allegany and Chautauqua counties for years, was encouraged by Tuesday’s announcement.

The state funding is based on census tracts, said Zink, who had not yet checked to see what new areas the state would fund in the latest round.

Three companies were selected to increase internet service to unserved areas in the three Southern Tier counties in the latest round of the New NY Broadband Program are Armstrong Communications, Windstream and HughesNet, which is a satellite-based internet service.

Armstrong Communications received a Phase 2 grant to provide broadband service in Ashford, Ellicottville, Mansfield and Salamanca in Cattaraugus County and Rushford in Allegany County. The new round of funding may extend the original areas, Zink said. Armstrong plans to add 9,500 internet connections, not all of which are in the three Southern Tier counties.

Windstream, a service offered in Chautauqua County and some areas of western Cattaraugus County, will add 751 customers.

HughesNet, which will receive state funding for 72,000 high-speed internet connections, will probably be the larger provider in the Southern Tier West region, Zink said. The was no immediate breakdown of how many of those connections would be in this region.

Two smaller companies providing a microwave-based internet service to northern parts of Cattaraugus County and portions of Allegany County, Dunkirk Fredonia Telephone Co., and Southern Tier Wireless are not included in the latest state grants.

Those companies continue to add new customers in areas they can serve from towers and repeater stations, Zink said. Dunkirk Fredonia Telephone, for example, is focusing on the towns of Dayton, Perrysburg and Persia in Cattaraugus County and Cherry Creek in Chautauqua County.

Southern Tier Wireless is adding microwave-based service in the Cattaraugus County towns of Freedom, Lyndon and Farmersville. It is adding service in the Rushford and Cuba areas as well.

“I have not heard negative comments” from people with the new microwave service, Zink said. The download speeds, he said, “are reliable.”

Satellite technology used by HughesNet “has increased significantly in the past few years. It’s not fiber (cable), but there is very little latency.”

“We’re getting closer,” Zink said. “Anything we can do to get broadband investment is a step forward. It’s progress. He plans to map out the census tracts from the latest round of grants for broadband expansion.

“Students need broadband to do their homework and businesses need access to high-speed internet” to stay in business, Zink said.

“There’s a lot of fiber being hung in communities across the Southern Tier that would not be happening without the state’s commitment,” Zink said. “We’re moving closer to having more people having high-speed internet.”

For rural areas where it is not possible to run fiber-optic cable and geography prohibits the line-of-site microwave-based WiMAX service, the HughesNet satellite service is a reliable alternative to cable.

The state grants come with limitations on the price of both the service and the installation, Zink said. “The state put a lot of effort into this to make it affordable.”

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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