ION wraps up its $50M New York state middle mile project

ION (Independent Optical Network), an Albany-based provider focused on serving rural communities in upstate New York and parts of Pennsylvania and Vermont, has completed its middle mile network project.

The $50 million project was made possible through a $39.7 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant. This grant was complemented by ION's own $6.7 million investment, a $3 million investment from the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) and a $3.2 million investment from the New York State Economic Development Corporation.

While ION did finish its project on time, Jim Becker, Jim Becker, CEO and president of ION, said that there were some scheduling issues related to pole attachments with other local utilities that did pose some challenges.

"We ran into some make ready delays that a lot of grantees did," he said in an interview with FierceTelecom. "The power companies, telcos, and cable operators are understaffed for a lot of that work so the make readies that you thought would take 90 days would sometimes take 180 days."

Becker added that "we planned ours out so we could handle that, but it made it hectic at the end." 

Obtaining the ARRA grant enabled ION to build an additional 1,400-plus miles of fiber, which will be used to provide services to more than 300 anchor institutions, including libraries, state and community colleges, state and county agencies and health care organizations. It is currently connected to more than 130 of those institutions.

The network is also benefitting consumers. According to the service provider, the network will make broadband "more readily available to 250,000 households and 38,000 businesses."  

In addition to providing a range of connection options, including 10-100 Gbps, the network was built with overlapping fiber rings to ensure uptime in the event of a fiber break or equipment failure.

Besides anchor institutions, ION has been singing up a number of traditional wireless operators for wireless backhaul services.

"We're seeing a lot of wireless growth," Becker said. "Wireless operators had the urban markets well covered, but those Tier 3 and Tier 4 areas were definitely the challenge for them."

ION's influence is not just relegated to New York state, however.

As a subsidiary of Sovernet Communications, which provides Internet and telecommunication services throughout New England, it will be able to connect its 3,000-mile network with a 900-mile fiber optic network in Vermont. Like ION, Sovernet won a $33.4 million BTOP grant in 2010 to build its network.

"Now with the two of us, we have this 4,000-mile plus network that covers a pretty broad region," Becker said. 

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
Independent Optical Networks lights up new opportunities
Sovernet gets grant to build Vermont-based middle mile network

Updated article on Jan. 13 with quotes from Jim Becker, President and CEO of ION.