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May 4, 2022 - 3:12pm
posted by Press Release in broadband, news.

Press release:

Nearly 1,300 Genesee County residents participated in a statewide broadband survey. Locally, the Genesee County Planning Department established a goal of 5% participation. However, Genesee County residents surpassed that goal and finished at a participation rate of 5.3%.

New York State launched its “Mapping Survey to Examine Quality and Availability of Broadband Across the State” in September 2021 and the survey closed in March 2022.

“The Department of Planning extends our thanks to all of the residents who participated in the survey. Genesee County had one of the best response rates among 62 counties across the state,” said Felipe A. Oltramari, director of the Genesee County Department of Planning. “The data collected will help provide a clearer picture and understanding of broadband availability, quality, and affordability in Genesee County.  Broadband access and reliability are important economic drivers, especially for our small businesses.”

Batavia Downs partnered with Genesee County to offer residents completing the survey a chance to win a complimentary, “Dine, Stay & Play Package”. The package included a one-night stay for two at the Hotel at Batavia Downs and $50 towards a meal at Fortune’s restaurant. Byron residents Amada Jack and Nicholas Weibel were the lucky winners.

“On behalf of Genesee County, our thanks go out to Batavia Downs for their generous sponsorship package and to the Genesee Chamber of Commerce for helping us spread the word about the survey throughout the business community,” Oltramari said.  “There is no doubt these efforts helped us surpass our participation rate goal.”

March 28, 2022 - 11:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in AT&T, news, broadband.

AT&T announced today that it has expanded broadband capacity in Genesee County, with emphasis on improved service in Indian Falls and the Town of Pembroke.

In a statement, AT&T said this is the second new cell site constructed in Genesee County in the past year.

The expansion also helps improve FirstNet, a dedicated communications platform for first responders.

"FirstNet is built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority and is designed to help first responders in New York and across the country connect to the critical information they need – when they need it – so they can keep themselves and the communities they serve safer," an AT&T spokesman said.

FirstNet relies on Band 14, a nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. 

"We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane. In an emergency, this band – or lane – can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. When not in use by FirstNet subscribers, AT&T customers can enjoy Band 14’s added coverage and capacity," AT&T said.

October 19, 2021 - 3:24pm

gflrpc1.jpg

As a Genesee County legislator representing the rural towns of Elba, Byron and Bergen, Christian Yunker said people are constantly coming up to him to ask when they will be getting broadband internet service in their area.

“What do I tell them?” Yunker asked on Monday, pointing his question to Paul Gavin, the just-hired executive director of the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council.

Gavin was at the legislature’s Public Service Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse to introduce himself and inform the committee of some of the agency’s priorities heading into 2022.

He was joined by Jay Gsell, the former longtime county manager who was employed as G/FLRPC’s interim executive director over the past year, and Richard Sutherland, a planner with the organization that serves the nine Finger Lakes Region counties, including Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming.

Gavin’s reply focused on initiating a broadband internet gaps analysis, which could take up to six months to complete, and then lining up financing, addressing any issues that invariably will pop up, and contracting with an Internet Service Provider.

“I would tell them that we’re at least a year away,” Gavin said, adding that the process would be shortened with the use of local and/or state funds. “(By having to obtain) federal funding, it takes longer.”

Gsell, who was charged with streamlining the agency’s operations in the temporary role, said that Genesee and Wyoming counties have yet to reach a level where they can take a broadband internet plan to a third party (such as Spectrum or Empire Access).

County Manager Matt Landers said Genesee has “already informally set aside a portion of our ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act money) to go toward this.”

“I know that some of our towns are better positioned – and have some funds set aside – to implement it,” he said.

Sutherland said that New York has authorized a broadband gap study for every county, looking for citizen participation to determine internet speed, availability in certain areas and what people would be willing to pay for the service.

He said the state’s Public Service Commission is hoping to complete the study by May 2022.

Landers said Genesee can’t enact a plan without countywide data of where the gaps are with all of its providers – noting that most information is proprietary.

It’s important to know the financial means of the towns and “critical to have that data first,” he said.

Gavin suggested that counties pressure the PSC by emphasizing the urgency in getting something done and to work with the G/FLPLC to implement a strategy that works best.

A Dunkirk native, Gavin is joining the regional planning council after holding a similar position with the Gulf Regional Planning Commission in Biloxi, Miss. Previous to that, he worked for the Port of Pascagoula (Miss.) and Department of Transportation in New York and Nebraska.

He is a graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy and St. Bonaventure University. He and his wife and daughter will be residing in the Rochester area, he said.

Gavin credited Gsell for his role in the G/FLRPC’s designation as an Economic Development District.

“That’s important … as it allows you to spend economic development administration funds and, as you know, they’re really flowing from the federal government right now,” he advised.

He said the G/FLRPC is available to assist counties with grant writing, strategic planning, land planning.

“We want you to turn to us and look for us to help you. Yes, you can go to consulting firms and yes, they will do a fabulous job, and yes, you will pay much, much more for that service that we can provide for you,” he said.

Gavin and Gsell said the agency is seeking a 10 percent increase in annual county contributions, from $9,600 to $10,600. The last increase came in 2002.

“The preliminary 2022 budget draft includes many operating expense reductions and continues our long-term history of strategic yet frugal budgeting and cost containment,” Gsell reported.

Photo: Jay Gsell, left; Paul Gavin and Richard Sutherland. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

May 21, 2021 - 12:13pm
posted by Press Release in broadband, news, Chris Jacobs, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) cosponsored the Broadband for Rural America Act developed by the House Agriculture Committee.

"Increasing broadband access in Western New York has been a top priority of mine since taking office, and I continue to work to advance rural communities' access to this critical service," Jacobs said.

"The pandemic has made it more clear broadband expansion is critical to moving our region forward, and the Broadband for Rural America Act brings us one step closer to closing the digital divide and bolstering our students, farmers, and small businesses."

This legislation authorizes $3.7 billion per year for broadband expansion and connection programs, including the USDA's Broadband ReConnect Program. In addition, it codifies a set standard for internet speeds at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) target of 25/3 Mbps upload and download speeds.

Finally, the legislation invests in the development and deployment of future-proof technologies to support the long-term needs of residents and focuses funding to expanding access in the hardest-to-reach rural areas.

May 10, 2021 - 12:01pm
posted by Press Release in Chris Jacobs, NY-27, news, broadband.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) is announcing a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program designed to lower internet service costs for customers nationwide. The Emergency Broadband Benefit will begin accepting applications on May 12th.

“Internet service has become even more vital during the COVID-19 pandemic," Jacobs said. "As our economy continues to recover and Americans recover from financial hardships brought on by the pandemic, this program will allow them to continue, or access, internet services at a discounted rate through the end of the pandemic.

"I commend the FCC for implementing this program, and I will continue my work in Congress to expand broadband access for rural communities.”

The $3.2B Emergency Broadband Benefit program provides a discount of up to a $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for qualifying households on qualifying Tribal lands.

The benefit also provides up to a $100 per household discount toward a one-time purchase of a computer, laptop, or tablet if the household contributes more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase through a participating broadband provider.

A household is eligible if one member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:

  • Has an income that is at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or the FCC’s Lifeline program;
  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income through job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers;
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit program will open for applications on Wednesday, May 12th. Eligible households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) using an online or mail-in application. Additional information about the Emergency Broadband Benefit is available at www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit, or by calling (833) 511-0311.

February 11, 2021 - 3:13pm
posted by Press Release in Chris Jacobs, NY-27, news, broadband.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) has joined the House Rural Broadband Caucus for the 117th Congress.

“Expanding broadband access is critical to rebuilding and advancing rural Western New York communitie,” Jacobs said. "This need has existed for years, but the pandemic has amplified these needs as schools have moved online, telehealth services are being used more frequently and vaccine appointments are being made online, and Western New Yorkers are working from home."

The House Rural Broadband is cochaired by Reps. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01), Mark Pocan (D-WI-02), Peter Welch (D-VT-AL), Rob Wittman (R-VA-01), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-16), and Bob Latta (R-OH-05).

The Rural Broadband Caucus works in a bipartisan way to promote broadband deployment. Since its inception, the caucus has successfully secured billions of dollars for expanding internet access to rural areas.

“Students shouldn’t have to sit outside a restaurant to do homework, farmers should not lose revenue because they cannot compete with high-tech competitors, and small businesses should have every available resource to grow and thrive in Western New York,” Jacobs said.

“This has been one of my priorities since taking office, and I worked with my colleagues to successfully secure $635 million in funding for the USDA ReConnect Rural Broadband Program in the most recent appropriations bill.

C'onnecting our region is vital to our future, and I am committed to supporting efforts to improve access for Western New Yorkers. Joining this caucus puts me in an even better position to advocate for the needs of my constituents.”

September 24, 2020 - 4:52pm
posted by Press Release in Ed Rath, 61st senate district, news, broadband.

Statement from Ed Rath, candidate for the 61st State Senate District:

Having access to reliable internet has never been more important. With most households having individuals working from home and students learning virtually, access to internet is critical. Unfortunately, for many in Upstate and Western New York, access to broadband is extremely limited.

For years now, we have heard about the NYS program, Broadband for All. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in improving infrastructure and working to bring high-speed internet access to every mile of NYS, including those without access or underserved.

Sadly, however, there are still over one hundred thousand NY residents, many, right in our communities, without any wired internet options, let alone high speed. During the 2020 Legislative Session, the Senate and Assembly passed a bill that would require the New York State Public Service Commission conduct a study to evaluate broadband access across the State. It has been two months since the passage of this bill. Last week, in the Erie County Legislature, I sponsored a resolution asking the Governor to sign this crucial piece of legislation. I am hopeful that he will realize how important it is to take a closer look at the availability of internet in our State.

We have many relying on internet to make a living, receive an education, and even buy groceries. It is time that we realize having access to reliable internet is a necessity.

March 13, 2018 - 4:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, broadband, news.

Press release:

On the heels of a rural broadband roundtable, Friday afternoon with local community leaders, Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) called for easing regulations on Internet service providers helping them to invest in underserved communities like northern Niagara, Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties.

“It is staggering that 65 percent of my Congressional district is underserved by high-speed Internet, which is why it is so important government and providers work together to make sure our communities have the services they need,” Collins said.

Collins also expressed concern about recent efforts by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Chuck Schumer to implement overbearing regulations that would make it harder to provide internet service in these areas.

“Governor Cuomo and Senator Schumer could hurt rural Internet expansion by falsely claiming that the internet is broken and the only way to fix it is more regulations. Their actions would be detrimental by creating more red-tape that providers would have to navigate,” added Collins.

Collins pointed to the Obama Administration’s implementation of heavy-handed rules that deterred Internet providers from investing in Western New York’s rural communities. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Collins has worked to correct discrepancies in current law to make sure companies who build the groundwork to provide everyday Americans with internet service are able to continue expansion.

"The promise of reliable and affordable high-speed Internet in the rural parts of our counties has been an elusive dream for over seven years, and our residents and businesses continue to be frustrated with the progress to-date,” said David Godfrey, Niagara County legislator.

“Current Internet services in the rural areas fall well short of the expectations of our taxpayers, and the promise for newer technology seems well over the horizon. Thank you, Congressman Collins, for always being here for us."

"Our meeting with Congressman Collins brings continued hope that our counties will receive the technology they deserve and desperately need,” said Lynne Johnson, Orleans County legislator. “The Congressman has always given his fullest support to the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance (NORA) as we push for those services that will help ensure every resident, student, school, small and agribusiness across our two counties, and the entire GLOW region receive internet that is equal to that of more metropolitan areas in New York State."

Collins said “We need to work together to ensure our communities have the resources they need to run their businesses, pursue educational opportunities, and connect with their loved ones. I am thankful for the support of local leaders that know what is best for Western New York as we continue to fight for an environment where businesses can succeed so consumers can benefit.”

January 17, 2018 - 11:36am
posted by Howard B. Owens in broadband, chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) introduced legislation today that would create a national federal registry of communications infrastructure to help address the lack of high-speed Internet access in rural areas. This registry will help determine which assets are available for lease to better expand access and will facilitate coordination between federal, state and local governments, as well as between carriers.

“It is almost unbelievable to think that approximately 65 percent of my district is underserved by broadband technology and about 3 percent is completely unserved,” Collins said. “Broadband access is important to our rural communities as our reliance on the Internet continues to grow for education, starting and administrating a business, receiving care from a doctor, or just plain shopping.”

Broadband companies have found it time-consuming, expensive and complicated to reach the communities that currently lack access. This inventory would be available to communications providers and include a description of assets, their locations, and a point of contact from each agency for more information on a given asset.

Collins sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, which will be holding a series of hearings in the coming weeks to address removing barriers to infrastructure buildout, supporting innovation, and strengthening the public safety benefits that come with access to broadband Internet.

Collins added: “We need to think about things like public safety, making sure law enforcement has the ability to receive notification of an emergency and quickly respond. Our communities need broadband Internet access to stay connected, and I am confident we are taking steps in the right direction."

For more information about the Inventory of Assets for Communications Facilities Act of 2018, click here.

December 14, 2009 - 12:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in AT&T, business, broadband, wireless.

iphone.jpgiPhone owners in Genesee County: Rejoice. We now have the 3G network available to us.

I was pleased to notice "3G" next to the reception bars on my iPhone this morning. And then a little while ago, I got a press release from AT&T announcing the network upgrade.

The PR says enhanced cell sites are located in Alexander, Batavia, Bethany, Brick House, Corfu, Darien, Elba, Leroy, Oakfield, Pavilion and Pembroke. (Brick House?)

3G is mobile broadband, meaning AT&T customers in Genesee County can now surf the Web and download e-mail a bit faster.

Now, if AT&T would just do something about the fact there is no place to buy iPhones or accessories in Genesee County.

April 15, 2009 - 8:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee, broadband, Time Warner Cable.

City Paper's Jeremy Moule caught up with Congressman Chris Lee at a press conference and asked an unrelated question: What is his position on Time Warner's plan to tier broadband pricing.

Here's what Moule wrote about Lee's response:

Representative Chris Lee says that the federal government should get involved with Time Warner's broadband rate change only as a last resort.

He's looking into Time Warner's proposal and is aware that there's broad concern over it. Public officials should make sure "consumers are protected and that they pay a fair rate," he said after an unrelated press conference this afternoon.

The company has agreed to hold a public session on the plan, which would implement tiered, usage-based rates. Ideally, it would be able to develop fair-rate plans, said Lee, Monroe County's lone Republican Congressional representative.

Lee had called the press conference to support his push for a passport office in Western New York.

April 13, 2009 - 4:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, broadband, Time Warner Cable.

For any Batavians who thought maybe Time-Warner Cable wouldn't test its new tiered broadband pricing plan in Genesee County, we have some bad news. We just received this message from Lara Pritchard, public affairs manager for Time Warner Cable, WNY Division:

Our trial for monitoring internet usage will rollout across our entire Rochester footprint. Batavia customers will also be enrolled to work with us and provide feedback on their usage /plans.

For those who haven't heard, TW is planning to switch Rochester-area customers from a flat-price service for broadband (cable modem, in this case) Internet service to one which offers different pricing plans, based on anticipated usage. Heavier users would be faced with potential monthly overage charges, or plan on spending up to $150 per month for unlimited usage.

WHAM 13 explains the tiered plan here:

The "trial" is expected to begin in August.

For it's part, this is what TW says about the need for the pricing scheme:

Time Warner Cable said that steady increase in use, along with massive bandwidth consumption by a small percentage of customers, is the reason it's testing the new pricing policy. The company said it needs to pay for infrastructure upgrades.

Commenting on the criticism of the plan, company spokesman Alex Dudley said, "Customer feedback is a critical part of the trial."

But not so fast. As others have noted, there isn't really a cost justification for TW's plan.

Ars Technica:

Britt's rationale for the change—infrastructure is expensive—is tough to understand. Cable's physical plant has been in the ground for years; even hybrid fiber-coax systems have been widely deployed for some time. Internet access simply runs across the existing network, and one of cable's big advantages over DSL is that speeds can be upgraded cheaply by swapping in new DOCSIS headend gear, with DOCSIS 3.0 the current standard. Compared to what Verizon is doing with fiber and AT&T with its quasi-fiber U-Verse, cable Internet is a bargain (well, for the operators).

But perhaps consumers are insatiable bandwidth hounds who are simply overloading TWC's system—or perhaps not. The BusinessWeek article notes that only 14 percent of users in TWC's trial city of Beaumont, Texas even exceeded their caps at all. My own recent conversations with other major ISPs suggest that the average broadband user only pulls down 2-6GB of data per month as it is.

A site called Stop the Cap dug through some of TW's communications for shareholders and found that TW is telling its investors its costs are actually decreasing. (via Fighting 29th)

High-speed data costs decreased for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2008 primarily due to a decrease in per-subscriber connectivity costs, partially offset by subscriber growth.

April 1, 2009 - 8:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, rural, broadband.

The Obama stimulus package includes $7.2 billion to help rural America access the Internet more easily, and officials in Genesee County would like to ensure some of that money benefits the region.

Known as "Title VI--Broadband Technology Opportunities Program," the allocation is a mere 1 percent of the entire stimulus program.

County Manager Jay Gsell clued me in a couple of weeks ago about the County's efforts to attract some of that money to help areas of the county that do not yet have broadband access. He said the broadband effort is one of many tasks on the County's to-do list related to bringing as much stimulus money to the county as possible.

Stephen Zimmer, Genesee County Director of Information Technology, said the county is participating in a state program to map current broadband availability and identify areas of need.

New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton applauds the effort to help rural residents access the Internet more easily.

"Farmers in rural, agricultural areas need broadband," Norton said. "Support for broadband has been in our policy book for years. Technology is necessary to keep agriculture viable. Your business (The Batavian) thrives off of technology and agriculture is needing technology more and more."

Much is unknown even at this point about how the broadband program will be administered, and it may not be until 2010 before we see any results. This PCWorld article explains some of the unresolved questions about the program.

The broadband stimulus program is also not without controversy.

Former FCC economist Michael Katz has been acerbic in his dismissal of rural American and the need for spending $7.2 billion on improving Internet access.

Katz listed ways that the $7.2 billion could be put to better use, including an effort to combat infant deaths. But he also spoke of rural places as environmentally hostile, energy inefficient and even weak in innovation, simply because rural people are spread out across the landscape.

"The notion that we should be helping people who live in rural areas avoid the costs that they impose on society … is misguided," Katz went on, "from an efficiency point of view and an equity one."

According to the same NPR piece, a New York Times article has referred to the rural broadband initiative as a "cyber bridge to nowhere."

But others say the package could help another 20 million Americans get broadband access, and high-speed access does help create and retain jobs.

A study of 3,000 people in Michigan, Texas and Kentucky found those in areas that received broadband Internet grants from the federal Rural Utilities Service quickly signed up for service, matching the penetration rates in cities. That happened where network investment was coupled with community programs aimed at convincing people about the benefits of Internet access.

Home broadband users were more likely to start businesses or take classes online, and less likely to move away, the researchers at Michigan State University found.

Norton said a lot of farmers in Genesee County are still stuck with dial-up, which hurts their productivity. It also keeps them from accessing more advanced online-software that help them run their businesses.

"(Broadband) will help the more progressive and larger enterprises the most," Norton said, "but with the smaller ones, there lies another opportunity to educate people and help them."

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