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High-speed broadband coming to Allegany County

Richard Smith

Allegany County is rural and thinly populated. Few have high-speed broadband internet service that is common in much of the rest of New York State. So the county is setting up its own wireless system as an alternative.

It is a mix of need, continually evolving technology and some careful spending.

The 911 system is erecting 13 towers across the county to handle communications, at a cost of $6 million. Under an agreement with the emergency services, the Allegany County Telecommunications Development Corporation will be putting high-speed broadband radios on each tower to connect residents off the main line of the information highway to web access, at a cost of $1 million.

County Legislator David Pullen cited the current experience of one particular county official.

"Because he lives a little bit out of town, nights and weekends he frequently has had to drive to the local library in town, park outside while his daughter downloads assignments over the internet using the Wi-Fi at the local library," Pullen said. "He has no access to broadband at his home."

Pullen says increasing access will help fill some of the digital divide in his county.
"We're going to enable more of our residents to get in and take full advantage of the 21st-century technology," he says. "The county has been there and portions of our county have had it, but there has definitely been what is more commonly called a Digital Divide. There's the haves and the have-nots and people that are not on the major traffic corridors have not had access."

With everyone from county officials to schoolchildren looking for that essential internet service, the county is joining other counties across New York to improve service. The first tower is due online soon to test how the project is going and more towers under construction. There might have to be some small towers to carry signals over the county's hills from the big towers.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.