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Improved broadband access a priority

One of the most talked about issues in Erie County recently is access to broadband. As the representative for some of the most rural parts of Erie County, I know access to reliable, high-speed internet is lacking for many. There are several ways the county is bringing this issue to the forefront in hopes of resolving it.

First, the Erie County Legislature unanimously approved a resolution at the Dec. 1 session that I cosponsored that supports the federal Broadband Connects for Rural Opportunities Program (B-CROP) Act. Broadband doesn’t exist in many parts of the county and the act would help bring broad band internet to rural communities across the nation by allowing for grants of up to 50 percent of a project’s cost and up to 75 percent of the costs for remote, high-need areas. These grants would be released when used in combination with loan funding from the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service to help enhance the economic feasibility of these rural projects.

In addition, the Legislature funded a feasibility study that we are starting to see the results of. This study was done with the long-term hopes of pursuing better access and quality coverage to rural areas and areas with poor coverage. This is the first step in pursuit of better coverage, it shows the provider options, and bandwidth speeds of customers in an effort to get a better picture of where we stand. It is well known that broadband coverage has an economic, community and social effect, and the rural areas can’t be left behind. We need to invest more money in this pursuit.

Earlier this week the county held a public meeting to discuss the County’s Broadband Internet Study and what the study has concluded. The county also continues to run an online survey to get feedback from residents and businesses. To complete the survey, please visit: https://eriecounty.crowdfiber.com. The stated purpose of the online survey is to “determine your access to broadband. Broadband is rapidly becoming a necessity in everyday life and the data we have previously compiled indicates many of our residents are lacking speed and choice, do not have sufficient, reliable access to the Internet, or are facing a combination of both issues. We want to explore our options to bring better coverage and more choice to everyone living in Erie County, but we can’t do it without your input.”

Anyone interested in additional information can visit www2.erie.gov/broadband.

I encourage you all to get involved in hopes of bringing broadband to all of Erie County. As always, if you ever have a question about a county matter, please contact my office at 858-8850 or email john.mills@erie.gov.

In other county news, a reminder that this weekend is the annual Santa Land event at Chestnut Ridge Park, 6121 Chestnut Ridge Road, Orchard Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11. In addition to a hayride to see Santa, families can enjoy arts and crafts, marshmallow roasting and more.

John Mills is chairman of the Erie County Legislature.

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