The fiber-optic ring: Four miles down, 176 to go
It’s not a utility-company crew or cable guys up on those telephone poles along a route that took them over the city line Tuesday, the first day of work on stringing fiber-optic cable from Ontario Street to the county government complex out in Hopewell on County Road 46.
“It’s all aerial to Hopewell,” said Lon Scorzelli, construction manager for Syracuse Utilities Inc., the Onondaga County company doing the work.
Some 18,000 feet of optical-fiber cable is being pulled from a giant reel as workers string the cable — about as big around as the end of your thumb — along the top of the utility poles. The route this week goes from the intersection of Ontario and Pleasant streets, east to Saltonstall Street and then out to the complex by way of County Road 46. The work should take up the rest of the week.
The fiber, made by Corning Inc., will be put in use in stages as the line continues to be strung for a total of 180 miles through the county.
The first 40 miles of cable will connect Canandaigua, Hopewell, Geneva and Victor and is scheduled to be installed by the end of May, said Ed Hemminger, county chief information officer. Hemminger heads Finger Lakes Regional Telecommunications Development Corp., the nonprofit group overseeing the $7.5 million project. The entire 180 miles should be installed by the end of 2009.
The goal is to eventually connect all regions of the county to affordable, high-speed Internet access.
County Administrator Geoff Astles cited examples of how the fiber system, called the Ring, should help the local economy. “Companies go to where the talent and capacity is,” he said.
For example, after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a number of banking institutions from New York City wanted to open “back-room operations” here, he said. “But we couldn’t transmit the data. We had to say, ‘We are not ready.’”
Existing businesses and institutions that need to send large files — including Ontario County — will also benefit from the Ring, added Astles. For example, after the Ontario County Court House, county Municipal Building and county complex are connected by fiber, information that is now delivered by hand (by way of the mail or a delivery person) can be sent electronically in a flash.
As for how the Ring can help the average person looking for affordable high-speed Internet access, Hemminger said information will be available next month about how customers can sign on to use it.
It will work like this: Telecommunications companies will contract with Finger Lakes Regional Telecommunications Development Corp. to lease the fiber and provide services to customers. The concept is that competition among providers will drive down the cost for customers, said Hemminger.
As for stringing the cable, the exact route is being determined as the project progresses, said Hemminger. The project’s designer, Fairport-based ECC Technologies, is in the process of signing agreements with the various owners of the utility poles, such as Rochester Gas & Electric and New York State Electric & Gas.
Construction of the Ring is being covered largely through payments from Empire State Pipeline, a company building a natural-gas pipeline through Ontario and several other counties. Empire is helping to defray the cost of a bond issue used to finance building the Ring at a cost of $5 million. Last year, Ontario County approved giving $2.5 million in the form of a loan and a prepayment for the county government’s own use of the Ring. Last month, an additional $1 million was paid into the project by Casella Waste Systems Inc. The payment is part of changes to a lease agreement between the county and Casella. The Ring will pay for itself once it is up and running, according to the plan.
Hemminger will answer questions about the project. Call him at (585) 396-4502.
Contact Julie Sherwood at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 263, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.