ELLICOTTVILLE — By the end of 2020, much of Cattaraugus County currently without a broadband Internet connection should be connected under New York’s broadband plan.

In an update to members of the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency Tuesday, Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board Director Richard Zink estimated 85 percent of county residents have broadband access. The remaining 15 percent are in rural areas beyond the reach of fiber optic cable. 

Some homes and businesses in the northern part of the county are using new Wi-MAX microwave Internet equipment, while others use a satellite Internet service. 

Dunkirk Fredonia Telephone Co., for example is serving the Perrysburg area and Cherry Creek from a new tower. Southern Tier Wireless is serving areas in Machias, Lyndon and Farmersville. The services require line-of-sight from the tower to the receiver, making it hard to serve some valley areas. 

Zink estimated that the wireless services in Cattaraugus, Allegany and Chautauqua counties now have about 800 customers. “We would like to see more,” he added.

By the end of next year, Zink said, Armstrong Cable, which successfully bid for much of the unserved area in Cattaraugus County, will be expected to run coaxial fiber cable to those areas. They would have two years to connect to homes and businesses after that. 

“Some say that’s a large lift,” Zink said. “It’s a huge project. There’s at least 1,000 miles of fiber (cable) on utility poles. There may be some (time) flexibility.” Zink estimated the cost to Armstrong at $25 million.

Other unserved areas will hopefully be picked up in the third round of the New York broadband effort.

Some areas will have to settle for satellite Internet service, Zink told the IDA board members. “It’s a fantastic project when it all comes to fruition,” he added.

As part of the Internet upgrade across the state, current providers will be required to offer higher download speeds, Zink said. The state has also capped the monthly payment for Internet access at $60.

Zink said schools are utilizing the Internet for more and more classes, but some student are left behind when they go home and can’t connect to a high-speed broadband service. 

Some students from Farmersville, who until recently had no Internet at home, would have to be driven to the Franklinville Library, which had wi-fi, or to Tim Horton’s in Olean to do homework assignments, Zink said.

The Village of Gowanda is looking for advertisers to help pay for a broadband service for the entire village, Zink said.

“Is there anything we can do to help?” asked Brent Driscoll, who was acting chairman of the IDA board.

“They need to support the providers,” Zink said of residents in areas where broadband services will soon be offered. “By 2018 it (broadband) should be by your home. By 2020, it should be hooked up.”

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

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