TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—In October 2020, Point Broadband, formerly known as Clarity Fiber Solutions, announced a project to expand into unserved areas in Tompkins County including Lansing, Groton, Dryden, Danby and Newfield. Completing the project would bring reliable, high-speed internet to 675 residents and businesses in areas that had lived out of reach of the service before now.

After initially being awarded two grants in 2018, one in Tompkins County and a larger one in Cortland, Chenango and smaller areas in Onondaga and Tioga counties, the state identified areas in Tompkins County it believed to be underserved. Caroline, Danby, Dryden, Groton, Newfield and Lansing were on that list.

In September 2021, a unanimous vote by the Tompkins County Legislature secured $70,000 to provide broadband services to 180 homes in Newfield as previously reported by the Ithaca Voice, while the Town of Newfield Board voted to provide $5,000 toward the project which would cover the remainder of the funds needed to make the area viable.

This allocation of funds would allow Point Broadband to install high-speed internet to Newfield’s unserved residences over the course of several different projects, including one called “Mid-Newfield,” which would serve approximately 149 unserved residents, and a North Newfield project that would serve 180 to 190 residents.

Construction on the North Newfield project has finished and will likely go live in mid-January.

Construction for Mid-Newfield has not started yet due to the ground hardening from cold weather, Point Broadband CEO Chuck Bartosch explained. Though no local money is going toward that project, it was awarded initial funds.

“Once the ground does a hard freeze, we can’t do underground work or it rips up the roads. We won’t start that until spring because we can’t finish it,” he said.

Bartosch also said that once Mid-Newfield is completed, approximately eight households along Route 13 would remain unserved as they are located in places where providing the service is very difficult due to state Department of Transportation (DOT) being very expensive both financially and timewise. He said that a solution to serving these households is not yet clear, but that Point Broadband is trying its best to provide everyone service.

“Edgeout” installation along Mt. Pleasant Road and Baker Hill Road in Dryden was completed just two weeks after the town gave Point Broadband the go-ahead as crews were already in place to do the work, said Bartosch, explaining that the company is also still working on a larger grant in counties surrounding Tompkins.

Point Broadband has a small build area planned for Caroline, and possibly a larger area depending on approval of a grant the Southern Tier 8 Regional Council applied for from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Bartosch said that Dryden isn’t looking for expansive services as they’re prioritizing a municipal build, though Point Broadband had initially planned an overbuild which is currently on the back-burner.

“We’ve got a plan where we might be able to do 100% of the unserved residents in the Town of Lansing, but that’s dependent on a contract with the IDA [Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency],” he said. “I don’t know who’s going to get awarded that contract, but if we do, we’re going to get to all the unserved residents.”

If the NTIA grant is approved, Lansing and Groton will receive 100% overbuilds throughout both areas.

CORRECTION: a previous version of this article only mentioned Point Broadband as the service provider for Caroline but Haefele Connect is the large bidder while Point Broadband services smaller areas within the area.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at zhessler@ithacavoice.com...