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Rural Onondaga County residents will receive wider broadband internet

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, left, and Verizon Region Vice President, Anthony Lewis make an announcement on an $18 million broadband expansion.

Broadband is coming to hundreds of Onondaga County residents who don’t have it. Verizon is signing on to install fiber optic cables in broadband deserts after a deal announced Tuesday with county officials.

By early 2024, Verizon expects to deploy 214 miles of fiber optic lines in several more rural areas of the county, getting high-speed internet to 1,500 households that don’t have it now. Anthony Lewis, a Verizon vice president, admits getting fiber optic cable in rural areas like the town of LaFayette south of Syracuse, can be a challenge.

"You’re laying a piece of fiber, a piece of glass, wrapped of course," Lewis said. "We’re stringing it up in the lines you see today, in most instances, they’re aerial. But topography in any shape or size, will slow that process. so it’s literally getting from our central office, which is across the street, from there to wherever the furthest home or business is."

The whole project will cost $18 million. Onondaga County will use about $11 million in American Rescue plan funding, and Verizon will chip in the rest. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said the need for more reliable internet access was apparent during the pandemic, and has become more imperative in light of Micron’s plan to invest $100 billion dollars in the community over the next decade.

"When we’re talking about a community that’s 477,000 people today, but we know what’s coming, is likely over 600,000 people within five to ten years, this infrastructure is needed for these communities to compete for investment," McMahon said.

County Legislator Dave Knapp, who represents LaFayette, said another plus is this offers consumers a digital choice,

"Ninety-nine percent of the area here is one provider, and so you’re really at the mercy of that one provider," Knapp said. "And by bringing in competition because Verizon is going to be stringing wire to get to those dead spots, going by a lot of live spots, and so that’ll bring in competition."

Verizon says it has a wide range of Fios service plans that start at $25 a month. The new broadband service will cover all areas of the county that currently do not have it.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.