By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
COEYMANS — The town council voted unanimously Thursday to award a $200,000 project to State Telephone Company to install high-speed broadband service in an underserved area of the community.
Funding for the project will come from about half of the COVID-19 relief funds the town was awarded by the federal government, Town Supervisor George McHugh said. Installing broadband service is a permitted use for federal COVID relief funds.
The broadband expansion project will bring high-speed internet to 70 properties along Starr and Bushendorf roads.
The town issued an RFP, or Request for Proposal, for the project April 7 and opened the three bids that were submitted on Wednesday.
Companies bidding on the project were State Telephone, Mid-Hudson Cable and Spectrum.
“Each bid is a little bit different as to what they are going to provide for that and how many premises can be served, but the area to be served is Bushendorf and Starr roads,” McHugh said.
The RFP included several criteria for the project, including how long it would take the company to complete the project, the speed of the broadband service that would be provided, type of technology, financial viability of the company, and “the monthly and installation costs for consumers.
The three companies were comparable on several of the criteria, but there were differences.
Among the biggest was the cost for consumers, both the monthly fee and installation costs for some homes.
“There is a big difference in this,” McHugh said. “The installation fees vary. There is an installation fee for Spectrum and there is an installation fee for Mid-Hudson Cable, and there is an additional installation fee should you go over 300 feet to install on any property. State Tel is the one that stands out to me on this one, where their installation fee is $0 — no matter how long the driveway is, it doesn’t matter. Zero is a pretty good number, so I would say State Tel definitely has an advantage on that one.”
Town Councilman Stephen Schmitt agreed.
“Honestly, that is very important,” Schmitt said. “We don’t have a ton of residents that would require more than 300 feet, but the cost — Spectrum had originally quoted us and our driveway is about 1,600 feet. They quoted us about $7,000, so we do have some residents who are going to have to think about that and I think as a board, that is something that we should really consider.”
Some residents with driveways longer than 300 feet might be unable to pay the installation fee for Spectrum or Mid-Hudson Cable, Schmitt added.
McHugh said there is also a difference between the three companies in the monthly cost all customers would pay for the broadband service.
“Besides the installation fee, I looked at the service fees and the service fee for State Tel is $59.95 — and this is apples to apples, the same speed level. Spectrum was $74.99 and Mid-Hudson Cable was $85 for exactly the same level of speed,” McHugh said “So that makes a difference, too.”
Spectrum said a project of this type and scope would usually cost about $350,000, but they would do it for $200,000, and State Telephone said it is a $250,000 project, but they, too, would do it for $200,000, McHugh said.
“Mid-Hudson said [they] don’t know what it is going to be, but [they] estimate about $126,000. However, that’s only an estimate, they have no idea really and don’t know,” McHugh said. “In my opinion, we asked for a fixed rate and that is not responsive. That turned me off. When I called them for more clarification on that, they didn’t waiver from that. So an approximate cost… I don’t like unknowns.”
Spectrum and Mid-Hudson said the project would take about a year once they are given approval, but State Telephone would take between six and 12 months, McHugh said.
“They already sent out for the licenses for the pole approval,” the town supervisor said. “They have also already designed the project and have already gotten all of the materials that they need for the project in-house, so it’s already stockpiled.”
Town Councilwoman Linda Bruno said State Telephone responds quickly to customer issues.
“[State Telephone] is very responsive if you call them,” Bruno said. “If you have an issue with something, they are very good about it.”
Customer service is an important factor to consider, Town Councilwoman Marisa Tutay noted.
“That is important. When you are a customer you want to be able to reach out to someone and say you are having a problem and have them be responsive,” she said.
Schmitt presented the resolution approving State Telephone for the project that would install high-speed broadband service to properties on Starr and Bushendorf roads, with Tutay seconding the motion. The resolution was passed by a unanimous vote by the board.