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Verizon selected to close remaining broadband internet service gaps in Onondaga County

Telephone wires are shown on a rural road with a cloudy sky above.
Scott Willis
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WAER News
Broadband service, the thicker bottom cable running left to right in the photo, can be seen on Route 20. But the service does not extend to Markland Road. This is one of the locations Verizon will add the service.

Onondaga County has selected Verizon to finally close the remaining gaps in broadband internet service.  The $18 million project is seen as essential to connecting existing and future communities.

County Executive Ryan McMahon said they chose Verizon from a handful of proposals because the company committed nearly $7 million of its own money. The county’s portion comes from American Rescue Plan funds. McMahon said broadband is needed for future growth.

"We understand now that this isn't about planning for yesterday's Central New York. This is about planning for tomorrow's Central New York, the newest semiconductor hub of memory technology in the world," McMahon said. "So this infrastructure is going to be critical to compete, and for these communities to compete for population growth and economic development investment moving forward."

Anthony Lewis, the Senior Vice President of Wireline Network Operations for Verizon, said this is going to be a great opportunity for businesses.

"This is a very unique partnership, but we'll pass more businesses and more homes," Lewis said. "Our goal is to create more work to give people the opportunity, given they have this kind of broadband services to create businesses that don't exist today. We know it happens. We've seen it happen around the country. We want to see it happen right here."

Lewis said they will string or bury 214 miles of fiber to more than 1,500 locations. County Executive McMahon said broadband has been a missing piece in the planning done by rural communities and hamlets.

"Who would've thought, you know, you can't get the internet, right? And in many communities, you can't," McMahon said. "So it's not about just so much the 1,500 households that we're solving a problem for, it's about the future. So that can be another 1,500 households in these communities that quite frankly wouldn't have been without this infrastructure."

But those living in the county’s rural communities are trying to balance their rural character with attracting more development. County Legislator David Knapp isn’t too concerned. Towns like LaFayette have planning and zoning boards that carefully regulate growth. He’s championed broadband for years as an essential service.

"I look at this, you know, almost like in the old days when there was no telephone service and the government came in and helped make sure everybody had a telephone," Knapp said. "That was a long time ago, but a similar type concept that was looked as something a basic need for folks. And that's kind of where we are now," Knapp said.

Some residents and businesses already have broadband. McMahon said the arrival of Verizon will mean more options and maybe better rates.

"So the properties that are in between those properties that had service gaps, uh, now we'll have a new player in town," McMahon said. "So we're bringing competition to the market."

He said Verizon will offer affordable plans in order to provide the service at a time when people are feeling the pinch of inflation. Most of the work will be done in the southern quarter of the county, but there are also service gaps in the northwest corner and on the Onondaga Nation. The project should be complete by early to mid 2024.

Onondaga County Broadband Project Service Areas 2022.jpg
Provided photo
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Onondaga County
This map shows where Verizon will expand broadband internet service.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.