Jamestown Muni Broadband Plan Gets State Support But Timeline Remains Murky

A plan in Jamestown, New York to deploy affordable fiber to every last city resident has received welcome support from state leaders, even though deployment details remain murky and network construction remains well over the horizon.

In 2021, Jamestown officials told ILSR they were working with Entrypoint Networks on a $25 million fiber network for the city of 28,000. The city hopes to deliver fiber in conjunction with the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities, leaning heavily on the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to ensure low cost access to marginalized and low income communities.

Empire State Development logo

The city’s plans got a needed attention boost last month when Empire State Development – tasked with boosting economic development across New York State – gave a nod to Jamestown’s efforts in the organization’s five-year development plan.

The plan, among other things, will shape how the state utilizes $664 million in federal subsidies made possible by the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program and the 2021 infrastructure bill. While Jamestown may qualify for BEAD funding, how much the city’s project could receive remains undetermined.

“I am excited that the Empire State Development and Governor Hochul both recognize the unique opportunity that the City of Jamestown presents in establishing access to affordable internet for all,” Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist said in a statement. “Our inclusion in their action plan further proves that Jamestown is not only one step closer towards making affordable, high-speed internet for our residents a reality – but is seen throughout the state as the model for closing the digital divide.”

Jamestown NY

The city finished a Broadband Feasibility Study and is working to ensure any project would be tightly integrated with ACP and other federal efforts to ensure access affordability. Jamestown officials are also in talks with other municipalities that have built successful municipal broadband networks, including Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber.

But when an actual network materializes remains very much up in the air. Several city commissioners appeared surprised that the city was even still contemplating a broadband network, and city officials have yet to release a hard timeline for next steps.

That said, the city continues to make it clear that a lack of competition between regional incumbents Charter (Spectrum) and Verizon (FiOS) has resulted in spotty broadband coverage and high prices well out of range for struggling families. Like so many communities, the problems were particularly pronounced during peak pandemic lockdowns.

The city’s planned open access network – potentially the result of a public private partnership – could help boost competition and drive down broadband prices citywide.    

“The average cost of the Internet in the city is about $75 a month. And for the average family that has kids in the school district, they can’t afford it. “Sundquist said. “Our city has the unique advantage of already owning the infrastructure required for hanging fiber-optic lines and once funded, we will be able to immediately share savings with our residents resulting in a 10x stronger service at a fraction of the cost – potentially even free.”

Inline image of Jamestown NY courtesy of Axel Drainville, Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic