ADVERTISEMENT

Some residents of Niagara and Orleans counties soon will be receiving a questionnaire to determine their interest in high-speed broadband Internet service.

It’s part of an effort by the counties to determine the demand for the service in outlying areas and then to find a way to meet that demand.

The major communications companies, such as Time Warner and Verizon, have been reluctant to incur the cost of extending broadband cables into sparsely populated areas, a stance that members of the two County Legislatures feel is harming economic opportunities for rural residents.

“Reliable high-speed Internet access is as important today as electricity itself,” said Niagara County Legislator David E. Godfrey, R-Wilson. “Businesses large and small, and even our farmers, depend on Internet service every day to compete in the world market.”

Over the past 18 months, the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance has been working on the problem. State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, has agreed to mail a targeted questionnaire from his Senate office to determine the availability of and demand for broadband.

Orleans County Legislator Lynne M. Johnson said, “This is the result of a collaborative effort between Orleans County and Niagara County legislators, with the aid of Sen. Maziarz, to help bring a much-needed service to our taxpayers. It is imperative that these questionnaires get our residents’ full attention.”

Orleans County Legislature Chairman David B. Callard said, “This a critical step in the process. Our response will have a direct effect on our ability to proceed with countywide broadband availability.”

The results of the survey will be pitched to potential Internet providers. “The more positive responses we receive, the more leverage we have in piquing a provider’s interest,” said Evhen Tupis, the project executive from the BPGreene consulting firm, who has been organizing this effort for the regional alliance.

Tupis said that, based on a three-town study in Orleans County, two telecommunications companies have asked to be included in an upcoming request for proposals. Tupis expects other providers to be included when the bids are sought.

The counties have been working on the notion of wireless broadband servers in rural areas.

Maziarz introduced a bill this year that would have created a state tax credit for residents and businesses to make up for the expense of recruiting a broadband provider in an underserved area. The bill passed the Senate but was ignored by the Assembly.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com