Broadband in Lansing

Three things have happened over the past week and a half that could mean better high speed Internet coverage for Lansing in particular, and Tompkins County in general.  1-On October 14th it was announced that an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grant had been awarded that will bring a 17-mile long fiber broadband trunk extension from Ithaca to the future location of a  data center in Lansing.   2- On Tuesday Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles' amendment to spend up to $95,000 for a study to identify gaps in Internet coverage was unanimously approved County's Expanded Budget Committee.  3- Lansing's Internet Committee continues to try to identify gaps in town coverage and find remedies.

Lansing Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne said Wednesday that he had spoken to Kelles earlier in the day, and hadn't realized the Town was being asked to contribute $5,000 to the County study, as it hadn't been mentioned in previous paperwork.  But the Town Board unanimously passed a lengthy resolution supporting the study, including the $5,000 contribution, resolving that "Town of Lansing’s Town Board asks the Tompkins County Legislature to support a one-time Over Target Request of not more than $80,000 for a planning study that will provide the following deliverables to help us identify a possible path forward for a county-wide build-out of both middle and last mile fiber optic cable in Tompkins County", listing the deliverables as a market assessment, design, business and operations model, operations and maintenance plan, and capital and operations costs.

The ARC grant was a big win for Lansing in a number of ways.  First, high speed fiber cable Internet trunk line is an essential need in order for the proposed Empire State Data Hub (including data centers in Somerset and Lansing) is to exist.  The Cayuga Data Center will receive a $100 million capital investment, generate 30 to 40 full time equivalent $40,000 to $60,000 jobs, and a 20 megawatt solar farm on 110 acres of company land.  Heorot Power, which owns Cayuga Operating Company (which owns the now closed power plant and proposes to build the data center), will match the $404,170 grant.

Another way it will benefit the Town is that it brings the possibility of residential and business access to the trunk line, bringing faster Internet to existing cable customers as well as covering areas that are not served by Spectrum.  The resolution passed Wednesday notes that "the model for broadband build-out up until now has been that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) get grant funding from the state or federal governments to build a system that the ISP owns and controls; and these ISPs are driven by profit motives rather than public interests, resulting in inadequate speeds and lack of access and competition in the most rural areas in the county; and municipally owned internet services can better serve the public interest."

LaVigne mentioned that he had given Councilman Bronwyn Losey a contact number for Spectrum, but she had said they didn't respond to her call.  He said he would intervene if needed, but wanted the committee to move on the issue quickly.  he also said that supporting the County study should not mean that the Town Committee waits for the results of the study.

"I don't want this to take the place of the work of the Broadband Committee to find out where the dead spots are and where there isn't any Internet. I strongly urge that we double down on our efforts to get as much information as we can for the Town of Lansing, because I don't know when this (County) survey will be done. I think it's all good work. I think we need to get in front of this also," LaVigne said.

"The broadband committee is absolutely going to keep moving forward," replied Councilman Joseph Wetmore. "And one of the things that's looking at real closely is what we can do short-term to get people online one way or another. So we're not going to step back just because of this County project, we're goig to keep moving forward and hope that this helps move us forward faster."