SHERBURNE – The community of Sherburne will be one of the first in New York State to join a pilot program aimed at bringing high-speed fiber optic internet to rural areas.
A number of state and local officials gathered at the village's Public Works and Electric facility along Classic Street earlier in June to announce the “ConnectALL Initiative.”
“One hundred years ago community members in Sherburne came together to build an electric grid, which has served the community for decades. Just as electricity brought new, and in many cases, unforeseen comforts and possibilities to this community and other municipal co-ops across the state, so too will fiber infrastructure,” said Village of Sherburne Mayor Bill Acee.
The mayor said the ConnectALL initiative marks the culmination of a vision and a focus that has been ongoing for many years, and will improve economic development in Sherburne.
Interim President and CEO of New York Power Authority Justin Driscoll said, “As we all know, the pandemic highlighted the great need for the expansion of broadband in New York. When everything shut down, the only way any of us could work, attend school, or even visit our families was via computer or a cell phone. And if you didn’t have a strong broadband connection, you had a real problem.”
The Village of Sherburne in Chenango County, the Town of Nichols in Tioga County, the Town of Diana in Lewis County, and the Town of Pitcairn in St. Lawrence County are the initial municipalities to benefit from this first deployment, through the governor's $1 billion ConnectALL initiative.
The project to bring affordable broadband internet access to more New Yorkers living in rural areas using funding from both private and public investments.
Driscoll said, “I’m very excited to be here today to kick off the first phase of a very exciting project, the ConnectALL Initiative. ConnectALL was formally launched by Governor Hochul in her 2022 State of the State Address. This initiative is specifically designed to bring broadband internet to communities that are either un-served or underserved by commercial broadband internet providers. Fundamentally, this effort focuses primarily on rural communities like this one, the beautiful village of Sherburne, where we are delighted to be today.”
“Now we are tapping into this effort to help build what is known as the 'middle mile' for this project for the Village of Sherburne. As part of the initiative’s first phase,” he said.
New York's new ConnectALL program is investing $10 million to target areas where existing state-owned fiber can create a fiber bridge between large data centers (first mile) and individual homes (last mile), primarily in rural areas that are not serviced by private broadband providers.
Working with partners in the non-profit community and New York State government, including ESD, the Development Authority of the North Country and the Southern Tier Network, NYPA will manage the initial broadband deployment in these four select counties by leveraging existing state-owned networks to connect fiber over the "middle mile" to more than 2,000 homes and businesses.
Sherburne-Earlville School Superintendent Robert Berson said, “What will this broadband project bring to the Sherburne-Earlville Central School District? It will bring an element of hope. And what do we hope for? We hope for access, we hope for reliability, and we hope for a level playing field. Our community just wants access to the opportunities that everyone else has. They need something they can rely on, and during the pandemic there have been so many things that we used to rely on that we can no longer count on. But most important is a level playing field.”
He also said, “We hope to be a district of choice moving forward into the next decade, and having this broadband accessibility, moving from basically dial-up to a gigabyte of service, is going to be very transformative.”
The NYPA has worked closely with the village for years on various projects having to do with energy efficiency and minimizing energy costs for about 1,800 homes and businesses. Those same homes could soon benefit from having access to affordable broadband services.
“More than ninety years ago, New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt launched NYPA because he understood the importance of bringing electricity to rural communities and keeping the power generated within our state in the hands of the people of the state. This morning, history, in a very important way, is repeating itself,” said Driscoll.
Scott Rasmussen, Acting Director of the ConnectALL Initiative from Empire State Development also spoke at the event and said, “What Sherburne is demonstrating here today is the power of communities coming together to tackle one of the most pressing infrastructure challenges of our time – ensuring universal internet access for all. I’m confident that what’s happening here today and over the months to come will serve as a model for communities all across the state seeking to determine their digital future.”
He said the ConnectALL Initiative was the largest-ever investment in New York’s digital infrastructure.
“Our efforts today are building on the new New York broadband program from our initial 500 million dollar down payment on rural broadband expansion in the state. Over the past five years we have deployed more than 21,000 miles of new fiber optic cable and extended broadband access to 256,000 new homes, businesses and community institutions, “ said Rasmussen
He said improved connectivity would aid economic development for decades to come.
Mayor Acee added, "The is a banner day for Sherburne Electric customers. The prospect of having broadband internet access available to all of Sherburne's residents and businesses is the modern-day equivalent of the arrival of the railroad. New, affordable broadband internet access will symbolically expand the boundaries of our community, and help forge deeper connections between Sherburne, and the world beyond. I am very grateful to Governor Hochul, New York State and the Power Authority for working to make this project a reality."