An earlier version of this article referred to internet speeds as "megabytes" instead of the correct term of "megabits." The Courier regrets the error.
After hiring Hunt EAS Engineering to conduct a feasibility study for the town’s municipal broadband project about six months ago, the Dryden Town Council, along with its residents, were presented with the findings from the study at a meeting on Nov. 21.
The study, as presented by Ryan Garrison of Hunt EAS Engineering, showed that the total cost of the project is projected to be $14,535,281 over a six-year span. Garrison said that total includes contingency and incidental costs. In terms of funding, he said there are opportunities for grants and other means of funding with United States Department of Agriculture and the New York State Empire State Development.
Garrison said by the 11th year after the project begins, the town will be consistently generating $3.7 million in revenue annually.
Ryan Garrison of Hunt EAS Engineering gave a presentation on the results from the study. The objectives of the study were: (1) Determine all Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) that operate within the town boundaries and what levels of service they provide and at what cost; (2) deploy and analyze a study for businesses and residents; (3) develop a conceptual plan for the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network; (4) report any funding opportunities; (5) work with the town to develop a plan for construction and maintenance, and an operations plan of the network that will inform the feasibility study.
FTTH, according to Garrison, features all fiber optic cabling and is passive optical networking, meaning there are no electronics on telephone poles, outside one’s telecommunication rooms or outside of the customer’s home. FTTH has limitless capacity and 12-mile distance limitation from active equipment. Garrison said it is also easy to monitor.
“You can tell exactly where faults are because the light can determine exactly where on the cable you have a fault,” Garrison said. “So it’s easier to determine if something actually happened physically to your cable.”
Nearly 4,000 households were surveyed on the prospect of a municipal broadband service, and 935 of those households (24 percent) responded to the survey. Ninety-five percent of the responses came from residential properties.
Forty-six percent of households said they receive less than 10 megabits per second download, and 41 percent said they are currently paying between $51 and $100 per month for their broadband service.
“If you match those two things up and look for the overlap, you see that there’s pretty slow service for a little bit more than [the] average price,” Garrison said.
Seventy-one percent said they subscribe to Spectrum for their service. Ninety-six percent of households that responded to the survey said they would be interested in a 100 megabits per second municipal broadband service.
Garrison then outlined what the course of action would be if this project were to come to fruition. An internet service department associated the town would be created.
“The town would provide internet service and how to request it to its residents,” he said. “It would utilize a subcontractor model, reducing the town participation to strictly oversight. It would invest in technology like fiber to ensure that the town’s network is going to be viable for years to come.”
For the service levels that would be offered, residential households could subscribe to a 400 megabytes per second service for $50 a month, or a one gigabit per second service for $100 per month. Businesses could subscribe to a 400 megabits per second service for $75 a month, and a one gigabit per second service for $150 per month.
“Those business circuits are what’s called ‘dedicated bandwidth,’ so they never lose it,” Garrison said. “It’s always going to be there; it’s always going to be the same. With residential customers, it’s mostly ‘best effort’ is what they call it. You typically see exactly what you get, but you share it with other people.”
Following the presentation, Town Supervisor Jason Leifer said he had recently attended a presentation by Verizon and AT&T and those companies are not planning on offering high-speed 5G service anywhere except possibly the City of Ithaca.
Leifer asked Garrison if he thought residents would still be interested in subscribing to a municipal broadband service if or if not a 5G service is offered. Garrison said he would have to look at the comments left on the survey, but he believes if it were to be offered it would more than likely not be an issue.
“First with 5G, I think you’re going to see a very slow roll out,” he said. “It’s a small cell technology, and the range is very short … so they have to put up more antennas. If you think of the logistics of that issue, they’re going to hit the Ithacas, they’re going to hit the Cornings. We don’t even know when they’re going to do that, but the rural areas are always going to be a problem.”
“5G, I don’t think it’s going to affect rural anytime soon,” he added. “Maybe some of the urban areas sooner than that.”