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ARC Grant Internet Lansing

Tompkins County Area Development announced Wednesday that it has been awarded a $404,170 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grant to bring a 17-mile long fiber broadband trunk extension from Ithaca to the future location of a  data center in Lansing.  The Internet trunk line is a crucial element in converting the now-closed coal-fired power plant in the north-west of the Town into a state of the art 100 MW cloud data center, and may bring high speed Internet to under-served areas in Lansing.

"As we have seen during this pandemic, access to the Internet is critically important. Businesses, first responders, healthcare institutions, schools, and, of course, residents, need a more reliable, high speed, lifeline to the rest of the world,” said Tompkins County Area Development President Heather McDaniel, CEcD. "Safety and economic prosperity are increasingly dependent upon this resource, which has been lacking in much of Tompkins County. Tompkins County Area Development is excited to announce it has received a $404,170 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to support a 17-mile extension of fiber optic cable from Ithaca along the east side of Cayuga Lake to the former Cayuga Coal Plant. "This ‘middle mile’ fiber will ultimately enable the delivery of high-speed internet service that has been sorely needed by residents and businesses in Tompkins County."

The trunk line will not only help make the creation of a data center possible, but it will help extend broadband access along its route.  That will mean that some areas not served by broadband providers now may finally be able to take advantage of high speed Internet access.

"This extension will also be critical to businesses, first responders, healthcare institutions, schools, and, of course, residents, who need a more reliable, high speed, lifeline to the rest of the world. Safety and economic prosperity are increasingly dependent upon this resource, which has been lacking in much of Tompkins County. This trunk line will benefit the data center, as well as offer inter-connection points to communities along the route," says TCAD Director of Communications Margaret Frank.

ARC is a partnership between the federal government and 13 states (420 counties) in the Appalacian region.  ARC power grants are specifically targeted to communities impacted by job losses in coal-related industries, including mining and power plants.  Two grants totaling  $830,474 were granted in New York in this round of funding.  The second grant was awarded to the Appalachian Regional Commission, for a county-wide broadband project.  To date ARC has supported 293 projects with over $138 million to 353 communities impacted by coal.

"ARC POWER grants  are specifically geared towards coal-impacted communities, and this year’s program prioritized broadband as critical infrastructure," says Lansing Director of Planning C.J. Randall.  "TCAD and the partners were fortunate to have had this application already in the works when COVID hit. On 7/31/2020 ARC said that they had received '174 applications requesting over $163 million during this very competitive application cycle'. 51 projects nationally were awarded funding – two in New York State – including this one. The fiber will allow the data center to connect to the Southern Tier Network (STN), which received support through a previous POWER grant. The project will improve 2,134 businesses and serve 16,234 households within a two-mile radius of the proposed line," she says.

"Working with the Appalachian Regional Commission, we were proud to secure these grant opportunities for Tompkins and Allegany counties," said Congressman Tom Reed. "These important resources will ensure coal-impacted communities in both counties can increase access to new fiber-optic broadband services and expand economic opportunities for the region. We will continue to work with local, state, and federal partners so our local economies can continue to grow and benefit from essential services like high-speed internet."

Project partners for the Lansing project are Heorot Power Management (HPM), SUNY Binghamton, and the Town of Lansing.  Heorot Power, which owns Cayuga Operating Company, will match the $404,170 grant. 

"Heorot Power Management applauds Tompkins County Area Development on winning the ARC award and commends its leadership throughout the application process," said HPM VP for Development Jerry Goodenough. "Data centers rely on high speed interconnection capability.  As all local stakeholders work to transition this retired coal site in Lansing into a modern data center location coupled with a large-scale solar farm, the broad band project will be a critical part of its success."

The transition from a coal-fueled power plant to a 100 MW data center is a $100 million investment that includes a $600 million construction budget. TCAD officials say is one of the largest business investments in Tompkins County history.  The project is expected to generate plus or minus 30 full time equivalent $40,000 to $60,000 jobs.

"I congratulate Tompkins County Area Development for their POWER award and commend them on the leadership they have shown in their community," said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. "POWER grants are playing a critical role in supporting coal-impacted communities in the Appalachian Region as they recover from COVID-19 by building and expanding critical infrastructure and creating new economic opportunities through innovative and transformative approaches. Projects like this are getting Appalachia back to work."

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