Already serving rural telephone companies in rural Ny. ION reached a major milestone last December when it got a $39.7 million broadband stimulus grant to complement its existing 2,200 mile fiber network with 1,300 miles of additional fiber middle mile capabilities.
Dubbed the ION Upstate New York Rural Broadband Initiative, ION will build out the extended network through a partnership with the Development Authority of North Country (DANC). The initiative will construct 10 new segments of middle-mile network infrastructure to serve upstate New York and parts of Pennsylvania and Vermont.
As word emerged that a Broadband Stimulus funding program was going to be launched, ION got to work. "When the word first came out that there was going to be stimulus funding, we started working then," Becker said. "We said if this is going to come to pass what are the areas of need."
ION took a two-pronged approach to solving the middle mile problem. Already connected to 60 rural upstate New York communities with over 2,200 miles of fiber-optic cable, ION's leaders asked its customers what their key issues were. Then, it went out to talk to the regional planning boards to understand what their needs were and how they could bring core backbone into their respective regions.
"As we were waiting for the Notices of Funding Availability (NOFA) to be sorted out, we had pretty much clearly identified the path that we thought made sense, but you just don't know until you see the NOFA how it was written," Becker said.
Of course, in the process of getting the broadband stimulus funding there were protests from other carriers, including local cable MSO Time Warner Cable. However, Becker said that the protests not only had little, if any, real basis, but that they could even use the ION network to reach into more rural areas.
"They pretty much protested everybody everywhere," Becker said. "We understood why they did but it did make sense why a last mile provider was protesting a middle mile application. We're bringing middle mile to areas that those guys don't to serve now so we like to think they could use us to expand their services."