Community Broadband Networks-FLX

About Community Broadband-FLX The company, based in the Franklin Square building on Exchange Street in Geneva, has 2,000-plus customers, including over 200 businesses. Its service region currently goes as far west as the hamlet of Hall in the town of Seneca to Cayuga in Cayuga County to the east, Lyons in the north and Penn Yan, Ovid and Union Springs to the south.

GENEVA — A Geneva-based broadband company expects to be awarded a contract of up to $3 million to provide free broadband service to some of Syracuse’s poorest neighborhoods.

Late last year, the Onondaga County city selected Community Broadband Networks-FLX to build and operate the network after it sought bids from broadband companies. Funding for the project would come from federal stimulus money.

The plan, which still needs Common Council approval, would provide 100mb service for free to income-qualified households. CBN-FLX President Tom Magg expects those neighborhoods likely will be able to have broadband access by the end of the summer.

To qualify for free service, a household can earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level. That’s about $29,000 for a single person, $39,000 for two people, or $60,000 for a family of four.

CBN-FLX serves parts of Ontario, Seneca and Wayne counties, with Geneva one of its largest customer bases.

Magg said the census tracts targeted in Syracuse are sorely lacking in service — either through no access at all or monthly prices that are unaffordable for people with little income. That fits the fledgling company’s vision when it started out a few years ago.

“That was our goal, the unserved and underserved,” Magg said.

He said in some census blocks in Syracuse, 40% or more of the homes have no internet service — and in some areas it is as high as 56%.

“In that census block, the per-capita income is less than $10,000,” he said.

City officials are planning to provide free service to at least 2,500 households for three years.

Magg said the company also will provide an outreach program in Syracuse, going door to door — along with other marketing efforts — to get the word out for people to sign up for service.

“If there are less than 2,500 subscribers that sign up, then the total amount we would receive would be less,” he explained. “So it is in our best interest and plans to get 2,500 subscribers on board as soon as we can.”

Magg noted that the city will subsidize the program initially through federal funds, and emphasized that its technology — relies on tower-to-beam signals, as opposed to laying more expensive fiber-optic cable — allows CBN-FLX to provide a more affordable price.

“I think that was our advantage in getting the (request for proposals) award,” Magg said, adding that installing cable can cost up to $20,000 a mile and takes longer to install, while his company needs only buildings tall enough to transmit signals.

Magg noted that CBN-FLX is part of a larger organization called CBN America, and that the parent company “will be taking what we have done in the region and what we will be doing in Syracuse and will be deploying this across cities in the USA.”

He did not disclose the number of people CBN-FLX employs, but said they are doubling their staff in Geneva.

Includes reporting by