March 22, 2011

Town Board approves broadband tower special use permits

It took about two hours this morning to go through maps, questions, and other details about three towers that Clarity Connect has proposed building in Dryden, using a grant of $430,000 from New York State.

One tower will be on Midline Road, another on Bone Plain Road, and another on Beam Hill (town-owned) is going to be rebuilt. Tompkins County had required a supermajority for the Midline Road tower because of concerns about its visibility, but it seemed pretty clear that it wouldn't be visible, and the board passed all of these 4-0. (Clarity is also working with Tompkins County to reuse a tower on Mount Pleasant, but that was not in today's conversation.)

Using the FCC standard of 5Mbps download speed for "Broadband", Dryden has 2115 households without broadband access services. These towers should give 1952 of those households access at that standard or better. Pricing is guaranteed for the next five years, ranging from $29.95/month to $40/month depending on whether bills are paid annually, quarterly, or monthly.

(John Chadman of Frontier stopped in to talk about Frontier's offerings to residents in the 844 and 539 exchanges. While he agreed that Verizon customers had few offerings, he pointed to Frontier's 3Mbps service as something widely available through the Town. He didn't oppose the towers - he just wanted to make sure the record was clear on Internet availability.)

How quickly will this happen? The project is close to its (extended) deadline. Clarity Connect, now that it has the Special Use Permits, is starting up on a very speedy schedule to get invoicing done by March 31st and construction done by 45 days after that. It'll take a little longer to get service actually running - Chuck Bartosch said "two to three months, hopefully".

There are still some remaining construction details to sort out as part of the (administrative) building permit process.

There's one remaining piece the Town Board has to address: the fee waiver described in the initial application. When the Town first signed on to this grant as a 12-tower project, they agreed to waive $60,000 in tower permit fees and about $14,000 in engineering as their contribution to the project. The three-tower approach has dropped that pretty dramatically, to $15,000 in permit fees and about $8200 in engineering expenses (beyond some 2010 expenses that the Town and Clarity Connect split). This got complicated because of a detail in the local law for waivers requiring that they be submitted at the same time as the application, but David Makar found correspondence that was the waiver request.

The Town will be having a public hearing April 5th at 10:00am to discuss the fee waiver piece. Hopefully the rest of this will move quickly and much more of Dryden will have high-speed Internet access soon.

Update: Here's the Ithaca Journal report on it.

Posted by simon at March 22, 2011 2:43 PM in
Note on photos