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Contracts solidified as ErieNet broadband project inches closer to construction phase

The ErieNet board of directors handed out contracts to a familiar firm as summertime construction set for a 400-mile broadband project.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The 2023 year is expected to be a banner year for one of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz's banner initiatives. 

Well, aside from likely being approved the other is the stadium deal. 

ErieNet inches closer to reality as its board of directors approved various vendor contracts Monday. 

ECC Technologies has been chosen to handle sales, marketing, and technical support operations for ErieNet. 

It was ECC Technologies that conducted the initial study for the open access network on behalf of Erie County in 2017. ECC Technologies also developed the business plan in which Erie County will operate the nearly 400-mile middle-mile fiber-optic network. 

"Our firm is now 100% accountable for the success of this project," said ECC Technologies Vice President Matthew Crider. 

The project has nearly doubled in cost since it was first announced in 2019. The estimated cost now, due to inflation and supply chain constraints, is $36M. 

ECC Technologies was previously awarded the design and construction management contract for the ErieNet project. 

"This is a significant undertaking for the county," said ErieNet Chairman Thomas Baines. "I think the outcome is really what's most important."

But is there an appetite for accessing a middle-mile network?

Sources with two of the largest providers operating in the region have indicated they aren't interested in connecting to the ErieNet system. 

Previously, the county confirmed that conversations with Google and Greenlight Networks have taken place, but no official agreements were in place. 

"If we didn't think there was an appetite, we wouldn't be doing this right now," Baines said. "So I think it speaks for itself."

According to the latest data from the FCC, 93.88% of Erie County residents could connect to the FCC-defined speed of broadband, 25Mps down and  3Mps up. 

On the business side, only 48.37% of businesses could achieve those speeds in Erie County. 

Crider says that construction on the network is expected to begin in June or July. 

"We'll be running construction crews, utility crews for probably another 15 months after that, at least," Crider said. 

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