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Onondaga County NY
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Syracuse officials have launched a new wireless community broadband network they hope will help bring affordable broadband access to the city of 145,000.
Dubbed Surge Link, the effort is backed by more than $3.5 million in federal funding and aims to deliver free broadband access to the city’s lowest income neighborhoods.
Motivated by peak pandemic connectivity headaches, Syracuse put out a request for proposal (RFP) late last year. The city then hired US Ignite as an advisor, and selected Geneva-based Community Broadband Networks (no relation to our program here at ILSR) to build a fixed wireless network capable of delivering discounted access starting with 2,500 underserved Syracuse households.
City officials tell ILSR the network is using Fixed Wireless Access technology, specifically Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which is an emerging technology a growing number of municipalities and other nonprofit community groups have been experimenting with as a way to bring broadband to unserved and underserved residents in dense settings. And while CBRS has promise, as US Ignite notes, “because the technology is relatively new, the hardware and software associated with CBRS networks is also new. Vendors may still be working out the kinks in their solutions, particularly if those solutions are being used in novel ways, or need to interface with other older systems.”
It should also be noted that another New York community (Westchester County) embraced CBRS, only to find that it could not deliver the capacity they wanted to many people who needed the service.