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Erie County lawmakers react to $36M ErieNET broadband project plan

ErieNET will be a 400-mile open access network that will connect over 150 anchor institutions in Erie County aimed to help close digital divide.

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — ErieNET has been an ambitious plan for county executive Mark Poloncarz. One that nearly became a financial victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Using American Rescue Plan Act funds, however, ErieNET is alive again and even has a business plan. 

The county released its business plan, which you can read below, that lays out the framework for the $38 million project. 

The 400-mile project will create a ring around Erie County and connect anchor institutions in the City of Buffalo, but more importantly in the rural areas that are drastically underserved. 

The business plan, developed by ECC Technologies (not affiliated with SUNY Erie) identified two main objectives for ErieNET:

  • Increase the availability of high-speed broadband internet to serve more Erie County residents
  • Increase local broadband competition for both residential and commercial users.

Multiple sources have told 2 On Your Side that Charter, which operates as Spectrum, has no interest in connecting to the ErieNET fiber lines and connecting service to homes. 

The business plan does highlight and relies on additional carriers to lease space on the ErieNET middle mile to connect those underserved communities. 

ErieNET will not directly connect to residential homes, and the county is not getting into the residential ISP business. 

The plan does outline that there will be negative profit for at least five years. Those losses, however, will be allocated for in the money secured by the ARPA funds. 

Of the $38 million needed for the project, $2.8 million is coming directly from the county. 

According to the plan, ErieNET will connect to 40 different Town/Village halls, 37 libraries, 11 county towers, and other anchor sites. In total, 152 different sites will be connected to ErieNET. 

The business plan released Thursday specifically mentioned that the University at Buffalo, as well as the city of Buffalo, have expressed "serious interest" in the ErieNET project. The county is currently negotiating with both institutions over budget and participation in the project. 

One area that isn't being connected to ErieNET is the Town of Wales. 2 On Your Side has asked county officials about this, but has not received clarification as to why. 

You can read the business plan here:

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