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Major broadband project in Oneida County to break ground


The Public Service Commission projects there are more than 12,600 homes in Oneida County where there’s a poor internet connection or none at all.

That’s roughly 40% of the county population.

There are multiple projects in the works to get broadband or better broadband to more people.

A project spearheaded by Oneida County will install six-towers and nearly 300 miles of fiber. Bug Tussel signed with Oneida County to guarantee $24 million in bonds for the project.

Executive Director of the Oneida County Economic Development Corporation Jeff Verdoorn says funding from the state and federal governments have been critical to expanding broadband in the county.

“It gets back to the terrain of all the lakes and topography in terms of just the cost of running fiber. Then it's just the low population density that makes it not worth it for essentially private companies to run fiber. That's why the bonding project and other things that we do in terms of grants are so important. It makes it especially economically viable to build, to run that fiber,” said Verdoorn.

Planning and development have been underway since 2021. Construction is starting this year.

The first phase involves installing 110 miles of fiber optic cable. Michaels, a Wisconsin-based multinational company has been contracted for the first construction season of the project.

It’s estimated that the project will provide 6,000 to 10,000 addresses with broadband access.

In addition to this work, Charter-Spectrum was also awarded a Federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund grant in 2021.

Multiple providers will be key to keeping costs down once internet is available to people.

“The best thing we have for keeping costs low is competition. That's why we've got multiple ISPs working, so that people have a choice. Also, since COVID, there's been a number of programs that provide essential assistance to keep costs low. But really what it comes down to is competition and having multiple internet service providers available,” said Verdoorn.

The ultimate goal is for all Oneida County residents to have access to good internet services by 2030.

“People need to have internet in today's society. We're working on doing a lot behind the scenes and our commitment is to hopefully get this done by 2030,” said Verdoorn.

There is a map detailing where fiber lines and towers are being installed on the Oneida County website.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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