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City of Syracuse broadband program moving forward

By Eric Reinhardt (ereinhardt@cnybj.com)

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The City of Syracuse’s community-broadband program is moving forward, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced Wednesday. The program — which used federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act — is designed to provide affordable, high-speed internet for underserved families in Syracuse. (Photo credit: zoeyadvertising.com)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The City of Syracuse is moving forward with its community-broadband program, an initiative designed to provide affordable, high-speed internet for underserved families in Syracuse using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The program will serve a minimum of 2,500 households and establish an “enhanced municipal network” for the city’s digital services and data-driven applications, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said in the Wednesday announcement.

Data from the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) “documents a digital divide in Syracuse.” The survey found more than 25 percent of Syracuse households lack any internet access and one-third of students in the Syracuse City School District lack high-speed internet at home, per Walsh’s office.

The pilot program targets households in census tracts with the lowest rates of internet and broadband access.

“This program will support families without adequate internet access and alleviate digital challenges that have been exacerbated by COVID-19,” Walsh said. “I thank the Common Council for their unanimous vote to move this program forward, and I am pleased that we are taking direct steps to bridge the digital divide, creating digital opportunity for all.”

The City of Syracuse selected Community Broadband Networks of Geneva to install and operate the city’s fixed wireless network following a competitive RFP (request for proposal) process in the fall of 2022.

The contract will span three years and includes network design, installation, operations maintenance, and managed internet service/customer support.

“Bridging the digital divide is a critical component” of the Syracuse Surge, the city’s strategy for “inclusive growth in the New Economy,” Walsh’s office said.

Syracuse has made investments in digital infrastructure, smart devices that capture and analyze data, data-driven applications, and “more inclusive” access to the internet and digital literacy for residents.

In its effort to improve access to the internet for residents, the city established free Wi-Fi service at public buildings such as City Hall and City Hall Commons and expanded free public Wi-Fi access at five neighborhood-based community center locations, Walsh’s office noted.

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