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Connect NY Project Update

August 2016

This is the fifth update on the Connect NY Broadband project for Tompkins and Cayuga Counties. I'm not calling it "quarterly" any more since it's averaging every 4 months or so...

 
(1) Overall current status: The grant requirement was to build out to 5,703 HHs in the target service area. We are currently able to reach about 5,800 so we already exceed the grant parameters. However, we are still building out, in particular in Newfield, Danby, and a bit in Niles.
 
Again, we have not ceased building infrastructure despite meeting the grant requirements.
 
(2) I've attached two pdfs, one for Tompkins and one for Cayuga, for the "current" projected coverage area. A few poles in making up this projection don't have electric service yet but will have it within the next few weeks. The blue dots are household/business locations. We are, as before, prioritizing based on neighborhood sign up density. Note that households calling us about service won't speed up the installation schedule-but more households signed up in an area will speed it up since it's more efficient for us to do batches of people in a similar area.
 
(3) We are implementing a "two phase" rollout of installations to maximize how quickly we can get service in place for most people. In the first phase we do relatively easy installation attempts (normal antennas, high gain antennas, maybe a short mast to raise the antenna-depending on the difficulty of doing so). If the installation is a fail, the customer is moved into a second queue to be addressed later. The SECOND phase will include taller masts, installation on a post in the yard (potentially out by the road), potentially mounting in intervening trees, relaying from a neighbor (for example) and other solutions we're working on.
 
This second phase takes *much* more time to do an install but has a higher chance of success as well. The second phase attempts probably won't start happening broadly for 6 months or so. We ARE doing a very few of these now, mainly to try out various options and get a better idea of which are most appropriate, where.
 
(4) We have finally been able to hire the installers we needed. We have the capacity to do about 100 HHs a month, maybe even a little more (depending on weather for example). The general backlog is probably down to about ~4 months.
 
->We are still potentially hiring. If you know anyone who needs a job, likes to work outside, and (ideally) has experience similar to what a Dishnetwork/Direct TV installer might have, please have them contact us at employment@clarityconnect.com. We are particularly looking for people who might be based in Cayuga County, but we are hiring in Tompkins as well.
 
(5) Though better than it was, it is still more difficult than it should be to reach people who have pre-signed up to schedule an installation. When we're ready to install customers in a neighborhood, we send an email to the address they gave us upon signing up a few weeks ahead of time, and follow that up (when necessary) a few days later with a phone call. If you have a suggestion about how we can cost-effectively alert people that we're ready for their neighborhood and get them on the schedule, please let me know.
 
(6) For marketing, we've started putting yard signs when a household now has service from Clarity Connect in hopes of eliciting enquiries from neighbors. We'll probably start soon working on marketing on a Town-by-Town basis with Town Supervisors or Boards to get the word out.
 
This note, and any future updates, will be posted on our website. If you have questions, please send them to ConnectNY@clarityconnect.com.
 
Chuck Bartosch, CEO
Clarity Connect, Inc.
 
 
 
 

Connect NY Project Update

February 2016

This is the fourth quarterly update on the Connect NY Broadband project for Tompkins and Cayuga Counties. The project is about 85% complete. We are waiting on a State reimbursement for the work completed so far. The final build phase will take about 4 months once that arrives.

Attached are pdfs of the current coverage area, one for Cayuga County and one for Tompkins County. I've simplified the color scheme compared to past maps, using just one color (pink) to indicate coverage availability. The blue dots are household/business locations. Note that we have a very long backlog of requested services so we are, as before, prioritizing based on neighborhood sign up density. Note that households calling us about service won't speed up the installation schedule-but more households signed up in an area will since it's more efficient for us to do batches of people in a similar area.
 
->We are looking to add install staff though. So if you know anyone who needs a job, likes to work outside, and (ideally) has experience similar to what a Dishnetwork/Direct TV installer does, please have them contact us at employment@clarityconnect.com. We are particularly looking for people who might be based in Cayuga County, but we are hiring in Tompkins as well.
 
One issue we're having right now is trying to actually get a response from people who have pre-signed up. When we're ready to install customers in a neighborhood, we send an email to the address they gave us upon signing up, and follow that up (when necessary) a few days later with a phone call. But we're currently only getting about a 30% response rate (we don't seem to be reaching the other 70% since they don't respond to the email or the call). If there are suggestions about how we can cost-effectively alert people that we're ready for their neighborhood, I'm all ears.
 
This note, and any future updates, will be posted on our website quarterly. If you have questions, please send them to ConnectNY@clarityconnect.com.
 
Chuck Bartosch, CEO
Clarity Connect, Inc.

February Coverage Update

 


Connect NY Project Update

October 2015

This is the third quarterly update on the Connect NY Broadband project for Tompkins and Cayuga Counties.

In the grant we promised to cover at least 5,703 address points in the grant area that did not previously have high speed service available. With the latest phase of the buildout we now cover, or will cover in the next few weeks, 70% to 75% of those addresses. In some cases we are just waiting for electrical hookups (apparently we're in NYSEG's "busy season"). There is one pole that's still going up but is shown here since it's to be installed imminently.
 
Below are images of the coverage area, one for Cayuga County and one for Tompkins County. The maps are colorful, but here's the key: dark purple is unserved still but in the grant area. The red borders are town borders. The cyan color represents areas the project can now serve, or will see within a few weeks. The darker tree-green colors are in fact trees and not areas covered by the grant. Note that some towns are shown even though they aren't formally in the grant project area, like Summerhill, Sempronius, and Caroline.
 
We are prioritizing installations based on signup density (the ratio of signups to potential signups). It's (probably obviously) easier for us to do a batch of installs in a neighborhood than it is to install scattered customers all across the grant territory. So it's still useful to get your neighbors to sign up if you'd like to get service more quickly.
 
We submitted the next reimbursement request about 4 weeks ago-it has yet to be moved from the Broadband office to other State agencies for approval, but we're watching the status closely. We are currently still building out while we await the next reimbursement.
 
With current timelines (but depending on weather to some extent and how fast the State processes this most recent reimbursement request), we're hoping to have the buildout completed by May or so.
 
As usual, customers who have pre-signed up for service will be contacted for installation once the infrastructure serving their area has been installed, activated, tested AND we're sending an install crew to their neighborhood.
 
This note, and any future updates, will be posted on our website quarterly. If you have questions, please send them to ConnectNY@clarityconnect.com.
 
Chuck Bartosch, CEO
Clarity Connect, Inc.

 

 

 

 


ConnectNY Project Update
July 2015

This is the second quarterly update on Clarity Connect's ConnectNY Broadband project for Tompkins and Cayuga Counties.
 
In the last update we were waiting on the first State reimbursement to continue project work. The general process is: We place an order with a supplier or contractor, the product or service is delivered or performed, we pay for it. Nominally once a quarter we are allowed to submit for reimbursement after undergoing an outside audit for the reimbursement request.
 
It took just over 5 months after submission for the first reimbursement to be received. Nominally the State will reimburse within about 3 months once the outside audit has been completed. But there are a number of agencies that have to sign off before the reimbursement can be delivered so the process is complicated...and this is the first time for this particular program. Future reimbursements should go more quickly.
 
The good news is, infrastructure building has recommenced. In the next 4 months we're expecting about 75% of the close-to-6000 unserved households should have service available. The remaining households will be awaiting the next State reimbursement but should have service available in about 9 months. This is a slower roll-out than previously anticipated because our contractors mostly had to take other jobs while we waited on State funding to come through. They are fitting us in where they can, but it does slow the project down quite a bit.
 
A significant factor in the order of infrastructure construction will still be the density of people who have pre-signed up for service. The poles that are activated first will be those that have the most customer demand so it's important to sign up (and get other households in your community to sign up) for service as soon as possible.
 
And, as before, customers that have pre-signed up for service will be contacted for installation once the infrastructure serving their area has been installed, activated, and tested. This note, and any future updates, will be posted on our website as they become available. If you have questions, please send them to ConnectNY@clarityconnect.com.
 
This is a good place to thank all of the people and organizations who have helped make this project possible…including, but not exclusively, all of the involved Towns as well as the Tompkins and Cayuga County governments. They have been critical to moving this forward as quickly as possible.
 
 

The Latest Summary for the Connect NY Broadband Expansion Program for Tompkins and Cayuga County
 3/23/2015

The Connect NY Broadband Grant Program for New York State was announced at the end of August, 2012 to bring service to residents of New York State who had little or no access to high speed Internet, presumably because potential service providers were unable to justify capital costs to build out infrastructure in these areas.

Applications were due Oct. 8th, 2012 and awards were announced on March 6th, 2013. Clarity won a $2.2 million award to build out facilities to serve 95% of currently unserved residents for 9 towns in Tompkins and Cayuga County (Ulysses, Newfield, Danby, Groton, Lansing, Genoa, Venice, Scipio, and Niles) for a project size of nearly $3 million. The grant is funding about 75% of the buildout.

The preliminary grant contract was signed with the State in Sept. 2013 to begin the grant contract process. The final grant contract was executed in Sept. 2014. Much of the preliminary infrastructure is in place or has been purchased for the project. Clarity has spent $1.5 million to date and is awaiting State reimbursement for $1.1 million in funds so we can continue the build out. The reimbursement process can legitimately take a while because it requires an outside audit of purchase orders, invoices, shipping/receiving logs, and payment information-all before it goes to the State for its own reviews by multiple agencies for fiscal audits, project goals, and State targets.

Enfield, Caroline, Ledyard, Sempronius, and Summerhill Townships were largely left out of the grant by the State due to cost. However, Enfield was fully restored while Caroline was partially restored (covering 40 to 50% of unserved households) by re-engineering the project and with the addition of some outside contributions. Additional funds were obtained to serve 90%+ of Ledyard, Summerhill and Sempronius. For Caroline, the Town has secured potential funding of about $216K in additional funds but final quotes for the work required in that Town have come in at $376K, putting the final part of the Caroline expansion on hold until decisions can be made on how to proceed. It is expected there will be further State programs going forward so there is likely to be an eventual solution.

The overall project size, if all 5 of the additional towns are included, is expected to be close to $4 million.

The primary project relies on telephone pole style "towers" and the use of 3 EMS towers in Cayuga County, 2 in Tompkins County, one brand new tower (already constructed, in Enfield), and one reconstructed tower (already completed, in Newfield). The total project uses 60 telephone pole style towers while the Connect NY grant-funded portion uses 38 poles.

We expect to have all funded poles in place within 10 weeks of getting the reimbursement from the State for already expended funds; we're expecting to get those funds in soon. Once up, we can activate about 2 poles a week over the course of 30 weeks. The poles that are activated first will be those that have the most customer demand so it's important to sign up, and get households in your community to sign up, for service as soon as possible.

Customers that have pre-signed up for service will be contacted for installation once the infrastructure serving their area has been installed, activated, and tested. This note, and any future updates, will be posted on our website as they become available, including when the State reimbursement is received and work can re-commense. If you have questions, please send them to ConnectNY@clarityconnect.com.
Broadband Committee Asks People to Register Interest in Broadband Service
Tompkins County's Special Committee on Broadband is asking people to contact the County's partner in extending high-speed Internet service, Clarity Connect, to indicate their interest in receiving broadband service.
 
New York State last month awarded a $2.2 million grant, in response to a coordinated application filed by Clarity Connect that will extend broadband service to many unserved communities in Tompkins and Cayuga Counties.
 
The Committee notes that the best way to register interest in receiving broadband service, or improved service, through this project is to visit the Clarity Connect web site at www.clarityconnect.com and complete an online inquiry form. Click on the blue box labeled "Contact Me About Wireless Internet Connection."
 
Anyone unable to complete the online form may contact Clarity Connect by phone at 607-257-8268.
 
Neighborhoods that register high levels of interest are most likely to see service arrive the soonest.
 
"Many people have been calling and e-mailing me with questions regarding the broadband project for which we recently received grant funding," says Legislator Pat Pryor, Chair of the Broadband Committee. "It's great to see the level of interest in extended broadband Internet access and very rewarding to me to know that so many residents of Tompkins County will benefit from this project."
 
Contact: Patricia Pryor, Chair, Special Committee on Broadband, 319-0507; or David McKenna, Vice Chair, 564-7243.