January 6, 2010 By Andy Opsahl
A broadband stimulus award of $39.7 million went to New York telecom ION HoldCo to build 10 extensions from its existing fiber backhaul in the state. The new fiber will reach parts of Pennsylvania and Vermont as well. The project will serve as a "middle-mile" infrastructure for Internet service providers to extend equipment to more than 70 rural communities. That equipment, which would facilitate Internet service subscriptions, is referred to as "last mile."
The funds came from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, one of two federal agencies tasked with distributing $7.2 billion set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for broadband projects. ION will deploy the fiber as a public-private partnership with the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC), a New York state public benefit corporation.
Extending fiber to the areas in question would not have been profitable for ION without the grant money, said Joe Calzone, vice president of ION.
Even though the grant went to a private company, several New York agencies had the chance to help plan the network extension. For example, the New York Department of Corrections and the New York Office of Mental Health gave input that persuaded ION to route the fiber near prisons. This will enable a video stream for psychologists to treat prisoners remotely.
"We'll build fiber into the 15 maximum security prisons in New York state," Calzone said.
The New York State CIO Office for Technology, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and the State University of New York made suggestions as well. ION's existing last-mile customers also made recommendations based on areas they wanted to penetrate.
Calzone speculated that the high level of government input helped ION win the grant, but he said it was mostly due to the federal emphasis on sustainability.
"I think they liked the fact that we had existing relationships, a plethora of customers who were already last-mile service providers," Calzone remarked.