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Municipal broadband would boost Erie County's economy, advocates claim

Erie County Legislature

A four-month study has concluded that creating a  municipal broadband Internet service in Erie County would boost the economy, create jobs and raise property values.

A study group created by county officials released a white paper that concedes there are numerous challenges to creating an affordable high-speed Internet system that would be available to all residents. But Legislator Patrick Burke, a Buffalo Democrat, says system upgrades will be key to the region's future prosperity.

"This has to happen," Burke told WBFO. "There is no doubt that there will be a build-out of fiber networks in this region and throughout the country."

Burke called an affordable, high-speed Internet service the 21st century equivalent of the Erie Canal or the Hoover Dam.

The report concludes that municipal broadbands in other regions have been successful. Burke says one potentially viable option might involve a joint  public-private broadband. He says this hybrid model could offer the most flexibility with funding, infrastructure upgrades and system maintenance.

The county's report was released on the same day that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo launched a campaign to rally support for a plan that would ensure that every state resident has access to high speed Internet service by the end of 2018.