ION, SLIC get $5.8M to drive broadband further into rural New York

The Empire State Development (ESD) authority, New York's main economic agency, on Tuesday doled out $5.8 million to fund three middle mile fiber network projects aimed at extending broadband to unserved and underserved areas in the state.

These middle mile projects, which are led separately by ION and SLIC Network Solutions, come out of a larger $24.9 million initiative ESD said is being used to fund various projects designed to "increase economic development throughout the state."

Once known as the Independent Optical Network and now a subsidiary of Sovernet Communications, ION will receive a $3.1 million grant. Working in tandem with the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC), the pair will deliver broadband services to 121 unserved and 32 underserved communities in rural New York.

The pair will pool resources, including DANC's existing 750-mile fiber route throughout the rural North Country of New York state, to build a $41.1 million, 1,308-mile fiber network throughout these areas by March 2014.

Jim Becker, CEO of ION, told FierceTelecom he could not comment on this new funding because they are "still working through the final details."

Although ION, a company formed with the backing of 15 New York State independent telephone companies, including Becker's family-owned Middleburgh Telephone Company, has been providing services to rural areas for a number of years, the service provider got a $39.7 million broadband stimulus grant in December 2009 to complement its existing 2,200-mile fiber network with 1,300 miles of additional fiber middle mile capabilities.

Likewise, SLIC network Solutions, another independent telco that has operations in the state's St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, are set to receive two grants worth $2.2 million and $425,987, respectively.

SLIC has plenty of fiber expertise under its belt, having built and managed last-mile fiber networks in Canton, Potsdam, and Massena, and the $2.2 million grant will provide assistance for this $30 million project. Launched in September 2010 and expected to be completed in March 2014, SLIC will deploy 660 miles of fiber cable to extend broadband service to 5,856 unserved households in St Lawrence County.

For the second project, which has the same start and end dates as its other project and ION's, SLIC will use the funds to deploy 136 miles of fiber cable and purchase equipment to bring broadband to 726 unserved households in remote western Franklin County.

For more:
- Lightwave Magazine has this post

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