A telecommunications company set up by the Seneca Nation of Indians will be in charge of operating a rural broadband Internet service in Niagara and Orleans counties.
The Niagara County Legislature unanimously approved a renewable 180-day contract Tuesday with Seneca Solutions. The Orleans County Legislature ratified the same deal Friday.
Seneca Solutions, owned by the Indian nation, will work with Resolute Partners, a Connecticut information technology company, to provide the hardware.
Funding will come from New York State, which brokered the deal after other bidders for the contract proved unsatisfactory.
The pilot project will be to provide wireless high-speed Internet service in the Niagara County Town of Hartland and the neighboring Orleans County Town of Ridgeway, according to Niagara County Legislator David E. Godfrey.
He has worked with Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson to spearhead the effort to make high-speed Internet available in remote areas where big providers like Verizon and Time Warner have been reluctant to invest money in broadband infrastructure.
“Seneca Solutions and Resolute Partners have the technical expertise to deliver exactly what we are looking for,” Johnson said.
Godfrey said about 4,000 families have been identified as living in areas of the two counties where high-speed Internet is not available.
However, Godfrey said Seneca Solutions eventually will be able to offer Internet service to any address in either county, even places already served by broadband.
“It might reduce the cost of Internet for people who already have it by providing more competition,” Niagara County Legislature Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove said.
Seneca Solutions and Resolute have experience in the wireless broadband field. They have been working together since June 2014 to install such service on the Cattaraugus Reservation.
Also, Resolute has worked with the Pentagon to provide wireless Internet service at military installations.
“The Seneca Solutions and Resolute team have a history of successful broadband projects and look forward to utilizing the experience and technology developed and deployed for the Seneca Nation on the Cattaraugus Territory,” Resolute CEO Michael Blanco said in a news release.
Godfrey said he doesn’t know how much the local service will cost consumers each month. He said Resolute will own and operate the network, while Seneca Solutions will handle marketing and billing.
The Senecas were not among the eight respondents to the counties’ request for proposals, Godfrey said.
“Some of our respondents said the county has to put some skin in the game,” Godfrey said.
But rules for state broadband funding prevented the county from investing its own cash. With the bidders “just not economically feasible,” as Godfrey put it, David Salway, head of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s broadband office, introduced Godfrey and Johnson to the Senecas.
Funding could come from a $500 million allocation controlled by the state broadband office; the “smart schools” technology initiative approved by voters last year; grants through the state’s regional economic development councils; or a combination of all three.
The Seneca-Resolute network will be able to meet Cuomo’s demand for download speeds of 25 megabytes per second immediately, Godfrey said. Most of the other bidders would not have been able to meet that standard.
The 180-day contract is a deadline for completing the Hartland-Ridgeway network. “I’m confident it’s going to be well before that,” Godfrey said.
But he said Resolute needs to choose antenna locations from a list of available sites compiled in a previous survey; any structure more than 40 feet tall will do. Also, the company needs to select an access point to the fiber-optic cable network.