Frontier gets $3.3M in grants to help Internet service in Fulton County

Sometimes, when the weather is bad, Ephratah Supervisor Todd Bradt has trouble making long distance phone calls, which he attributes to too much Internet traffic tying up his town’s inadequate phone lines.

“It’s happened, in the past,” Bradt said. “I haven’t had a lot of people complain about the speed of the Internet, but on those bad weather nights you’ll have a lot of people on the Internet and it’ll mess up the phones and what I’ll do is I’ll call Frontier and they’ll come up and get another exchange fixed.”

On Sept. 30, Frontier Communications was awarded six grants at the N.Y. Broadband Winners Conference and awards ceremony in Albany. The grants total $3.3 million and are meant to help New York state’s goal of expanding broadband Internet access into parts of the state that are underserved, such the towns of Ephratah and Oppenheim in Fulton County.

Frontier Communications estimates the money will help it expand broadband Internet access to 3,318 households and businesses in the counties of Chenango, Fulton, Hamilton, Tioga and Warren.

“We are very pleased to receive the New York State grants that will help us make broadband available even in the most rural areas and deliver speeds enjoyed in densely populated metro areas,” stated Elena Kilpatrick, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Frontier Communications’ New York operations in a news release from the company.

“These New York State Broadband Program Office Awards are great examples of public/private partnerships bringing together expertise, resources and leadership focused on the betterment of local communities. This is true collaboration that delivers outstanding benefits for everyone involved, especially local residents and businesses,” she said in the release.

To qualify as an unserved or underserved area under the rules of the grant program specific blocks of customers were identified who had broadband speeds of 25 megabits of data per second, known as MBPS, or less than 100 MBPS.

The $3.3 million will pay for about 80 percent of the cost of Frontier deploying “fiber-to-the-home” infrastructure capable of 100 MBPS Internet speed, while the company will invest $835,000 of its own money to complete the broadband build-up, according to a news release.

Frontier says it will spend $924,663 of the grant money, plus another $231,166 of the company’s funds, to help connect 402 households in Ephratah and Oppenheim to broadband Internet speed.

Oppenheim Supervisor Cynthia Breh said she’s hopeful that the broadband expansion will help her town.

“Anything, is better than nothing,” she said. “People are very frustrated right now, and rightfully so, because they pay for a service and it doesn’t always work. I think [the broadband expansion is] very important. We keep losing connections up in this area constantly. I can’t blame it all on Frontier, we’re just in a bad area. I have DSL and it goes in spurts; it could be fine for six months and then it’s in and out. People are very frustrated and people are going to other carriers.”

Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kilmer said he’s pleased the rural areas of Fulton County will benefit from the grant money.

“The chamber has been advocating for expanding broadband into areas where it isn’t currently available, we’ve been doing that as long as I’ve been here,” Kilmer said. “It’s important to expand broadband because it puts everybody into the 21st Century, which is where they should be. Entrepreneurial businesses are reliant on having proper access to the Internet and everything they can do with it. So, when you’re talking about Oppenheim or Ephratah, this gives people an opportunity to start small businesses or even home businesses, which is going to be growth to the economy. That’s the move in this economy today, starting small businesses.”

In Hamilton County, Frontier will spend $129,634 of the grant money, and $32,409 of the company’s funds, to help connect 188 households in the town of Indian Lake, according to a news release.

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