Medina Journal-Register — Over the past 18 months, the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance rural broadband Internet initiative has made steady progress with the goal of bringing affordable Internet services to un-served rural communities in as many as 17 towns across both counties.
“Reliable high-speed Internet access is as important today as electricity itself,” NORA liaison David Godfrey, a Niagara County legislator from Wilson, said. “Businesses large and small, and even our farmers depend on Internet service every day to compete in the world market.”
In the past week, the initiative received a boost from state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, who sponsored a questionnaire that is now being delivered to addresses in the participating towns. The questionnaire asks residents whether they would subscribe to broadband Internet service if it was offered at a subscription rate that's competitive with rates in more populated areas.
Commenting on the importance of the questionnaire, Orleans County Legislative Chairman David Callard said, “This a critical step in the process. Our response will have a direct ￼effect on our ability to proceed with county wide broadband availability.”
The questionnaire’s goal is to deliver a “market analysis” to potential Internet providers. Residents are asked to take the survey seriously and return it as requested.
“The more positive responses we receive, the more leverage we have in piquing a provider’s interest,” said Evhen Tupis, the project executive from BPGreene who has been organizing the effort on behalf of NORA.
BPGreene’s approach is to help municipalities to create a profitable business case to attract broadband provider expansion or attract new providers.
“This is like the brochures that advertise the recreational benefits in a community to attract vacationers. Instead, we advertise the business benefits of serving our area and offer assistance in building-out the network," Tupis said.
Based on a three-town mini-study in Orleans County, two telecommunication companies have already asked to be included in an upcoming Request For Proposals phase. Tupis said he expects to reach out to more potential providers when the RFP is issued.
The BPGreene approach includes clauses to assure a reasonable profit for the potential provider and ensure no long-term taxpayer subsidy for service.