Broadband Challenges Continue In And Around Chenango County
Published: March 9th, 2023
By: Kelli Miller

Broadband challenges continue in and around Chenango County In June of 2021, a $1.9 million grant to build a wireless broadband network was awarded to New Berlin, the Village of New Berlin, and the City of Norwich. COVID delays and shipping challenges slowed the project, and an extension for additional time was approved. The completion date is scheduled for June 2023. Chenango Planning Department Director Shane Butler and Southern Tier 8 are teaming together to find additional funding for areas in and around Chenango County. (File photo)

CHENANGO COUNTY — In June 2021, Chenango County was awarded a $1.9 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) to build a wireless broadband network in the City of Norwich, Town of New Berlin, and Village of New Berlin. The grant is administered by the NYS Office of Community Renewal.

Chenango County Planning Department Director Shane Butler said, “The project was scheduled to be completed by June 2022, but due to procurement and shipping delays, we requested an extension. The extension was granted and project completion date will be June 2023.”

There will be no additional towers built. Instead, wireless antennas will be added to existing structures and buildings, attached to high points such as church steeples and silos.

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Butler said, “Private broadband companies build quickly and are secretive with their infrastructure. They share little or no information as to when and where their build will take place as it’s a competitive market. If they do release information, we have to sign a non-disclosure document.

“When we're made aware of their build, we may need to restructure our planning and start again with a new proposal. New proposals can take a few years. Each step toward federal and state grant funding is all inclusive of studies, plans, writes, and builds. Each step can take between six to 12 months, not to mention the wait time for funding approval and award."

“The $22 million state-sponsored grant that would lead to better internet connectivity in parts of Chenango, Broome, Cortland, and Tioga Counties was turned down. We face challenges to find funding for rural areas in Chenango County because the cost to expand fiber optics is $80,000 per mile. We must find state or federal grants and federal grants are competitive," he added.

On June 28, 2022, nearly 200 government and community leaders, national broadband experts, and members of the business community came together for the first-ever Upstate Rural Broadband Conference. The Conference was hosted by the Southern Tier 8 Regional Board and the Regional Broadband Collaborative to help build the future of New York’s Southern Tier through high-speed broadband infrastructure and economic development initiatives.

Shane Butler was a featured panelist, sharing his experience and giving advice to attendees on how to start implementing broadband projects and programs within their communities, all the while advocating for more transparency from providers about locations they serve and the speeds available.

“Restructuring takes time, a lot of money, and planning. During the year or two of restructuring, technology changes. We are challenged but continue to move forward. We’re working with Southern Tier 8 and are committed to better broadband in all areas,” Butler said.

For more information and a review of the broadband annual report, visit