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Erie County exploring idea of municipal broadband

Xeni Jardin
Some Rights Reserved

A cheaper alternative may be on the way to the broadband internet services currently available in Erie County. The Legislature is going to explore the possibility of starting its own county-wide network.

Lawmakers recently gave the go-ahead to the Legislature's Economic Development Committee to take steps towards setting up a municipal broadband system.

Legislator Patrick Burke sponsored the resolution and says customers of the big name providers are paying a premium price for a low-end product.

“This is something that is really growing throughout the country. These sort of smaller municipal networks, broadband internet service providers, that have become a way to increase quality of internet service and also create access for individuals and businesses,” said Burke.

Burke says he admits it would be costly, but he says given all the public money spent on other projects, it's doable. He points out the proposal won unanimous bipartisan support.

“It covers all grounds and sort of goes beyond political ideology. It’s a quality service. It could provide revenues that the county desperately needs, it could attract business, it could spark economic development and it could create jobs. So, there’s a little bit in this for everybody,” said Burke.

Burke says a public-benefit network would go beyond net-neutrality and ensure open internet service for all.

“It puts local control on something, which is always important. It also sort of surpasses any concerns about large mergers of telecommunications companies like Comcast and Time Warner,” said Burke.

The committee will begin hearing from experts on the issue in September, after the Legislature's recess.