Barnhart Calls for Task Force to Study Use of County Fiber Network

  • Never-before-seen study of county network finds extensive, underused assets.
  • Study calls for upgrading network to “carrier class” so others can benefit.
  • County could raise revenue and save other governments and institutions money.
  • Network could be opened for residential and business use.

Rachel Barnhart, Democratic candidate for Legislature District 21, called for Monroe County to create a task force to study future uses of the county’s extensive fiber network.

Barnhart points to a 2017 study, paid for by Monroe County taxpayers, that recommends upgrading the county’s network to “carrier class,” meaning it would be capable of handling other users. The study, which had never been made public, also recommends combining the city and county networks and creating a “public network entity” that would oversee the new network. The public sector network would save governments money and earn revenue for the county. It would also prepare for a future that will inevitably require more bandwidth.

“We must get stakeholders together to study the options for this network, which is an extremely valuable asset,” Barnhart said. “When I join the legislature, I will push for a bipartisan effort to answer basic questions about how we can best use the fiber network to benefit our community.”

Barnhart is a proponent of creating a municipal broadband network. More than 40 percent of households in some census tracts are not online. Thousands of residents cannot fully participate in educational, economic and social opportunities. Digital inequities are tied to affordability, education and “digital readiness.”

Barnhart recently completed academic research on bridging the digital divide at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, where she is completing an executive Master Degree in Public Administration.

“As my work makes clear, bridging the digital divide is vitally important. It’s also costly and complicated. Getting people together to figure out this problem is a great first step and doesn’t require resources,” Barnhart said.

Barnhart’s research, which includes the Monroe County fiber study, is available here.