Otsego Electric broadband project nears completion

May 3—The Otsego Electric broadband internet installation project should be completed by the end of the year.

Otsego Electric CEO Timothy Johnson gave an update on the company's broadband internet installation project at the Otsego County Board of Representatives meeting Wednesday, May 3.

According to the OEConnect website, the limited liability company started in 2018 to provide fast internet service to residents in Otsego County and parts of Herkimer, Madison and Chenango counties. Johnson said the company received $7 million in state and federal grants to build a fiber network and committed to laying between 800 and 900 miles of fiber optic cable for county residents. He said supply chain issues disrupted the project for a while, but it should be done this year.

Not everyone will have high speed internet when the project is finished, however, he said, so the company is waiting to hear what federal and state funds are available for future projects. Johnson said there are gaps in the towns of Worcester, Cherry Valley, Decatur and Springfield that need broadband internet. He said the last mile to connect some of those homes to broadband is double what it costs to get to others.

Johnson said because Otsego Electric is a non-profit tax exempt company, no more than 15% of its service can be provided to customers who are not members of the electric cooperative. The company is at 13%, he said.

Vice Chair Margaret Kennedy, R-Hartwick, Milford, New Lisbon, asked if the county could partner with the company to get the rest of the county residents hooked up to broadband. Johnson said he hasn't done the research to see if they could be hired by a separate entity to construct a project.

Representative Jerry Madsen, R-Butternuts, Morris and Pittsford, asked if Johnson could send him information about the areas in the towns he covers that still need broadband internet. Johnson said he would.

During the meeting, representatives passed several resolutions including:

—Authorizing the chair of the board to sign a contract with the village of Cooperstown to share the cost of operation of Cooperstown Trolley through the existing Leatherstocking Trolley Company contract. The county will spend $82,000. Board Chair David Bliss said the county will be paid back for its share.

—Authorizing the commissioner of social services to contract with the Oneonta City School District for three caseworkers.

—Increasing election inspector pay to $14.20 per hour.

—Proclaiming May as Mental Health Awareness Month and Foster Family Recognition Month. Prior to the meeting, there was a reception for the 26 people serving as foster parents in the county.

—A resolution of appreciation for Eve N. Bouboulis who is retiring as commissioner of social services later this year.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.