Onondaga County is set to pay Verizon $11.1 million in federal stimulus money to expand high-speed broadband to rural portions of the county, according to a county news release.

Verizon will spend nearly $7 million — making the total investment more than $17 million — to expand broadband access. The broadband service could reach up to 1,500 customers.

The stimulus money comes from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act that allocated $89 million for Onondaga County. Legislators had earlier authorized the county to spend up to $15 million on broadband access.

Corning Incorporated and Onondaga County-based Right Price Companies are expected to supply Verizon with fiber optics cable and other materials.

Income-eligible households can get service for free through the Affordable Connectivity Program, according to Verizon. Residents can find out if they qualify here.

Verizon has previously expanded broadband into other areas of Upstate New York. The company recently completed its rural broadband grant build with New York State and the FCC to expand broadband to more than 48,000 residents in Upstate New York.

The goal of the program is to close the digital divide. About one out of every six households in Onondaga County doesn’t have broadband access as of right now.

Onondaga County’s program will focus on households outside of the city. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh planned to pilot a similar program within the city. The city put out a request for proposals for the pilot in late August.

Chris Libonati

Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or libonati@centralcurrent.org.