Cooperatively owned broadband project in Dryden delayed by supply chain issues

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A fiber optic internet cable installed outside a building in Ithaca. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) — The Town of Dryden in Tompkins County is planning a project that would improve broadband access in rural areas. But like many broadband projects, it has been delayed because of supply chain issues.

The project, Dryden Fiber, would use fiber-optic technology to provide higher speed internet service. Ryan Garrison is an engineering contractor working on the project.

“We actually intended to be working currently, like this fall,” Garrison said. “But because of supply chain issues, fiber is one of the things that was hit particularly hard.”

One of the biggest manufacturers of fiber-optic cable is in Corning.

But despite the local connection, fiber-optic cable is one of the hardest things to get right now because larger companies like AT&T and Verizon are also buying the cable.

State data collected at the beginning of the pandemic showed that households in Dryden had some of the lowest access to high-speed broadband internet in the state.

Garrison said that the larger broadband providers tend to use older, telephone based infrastructure to provide service to rural areas like Dryden. He said that older infrastructure is just not adequate given the demands of teleconferencing and other modern services.

“Right now, there’s not a lot of options,” Garrison said. “And prices get hiked quickly.”

The Dryden Fiber project would be one of the state’s first cooperatively owned fiber internet providers. That means the residents who opt in would be partial owners and would receive a share of the profit.

The project was met with near universal support from Dryden residents at recent town hall meetings.

Garrison said the Dryden Fiber project hopes to start laying cable before the end of the year, if they can get it.