BARTON — Haefele Connect President and CEO Lee Haefele has issued a response to the latest controversy that is surrounding his company’s state grant-funded expansion of broadband Internet service into the towns of Barton and Candor.
Haefele’s response — in the form of a letter to the Morning Times — comes a day after correspondence from the New York State Broadband Program Office was released publicly.
In that correspondence, dated Jan. 24, the state office announced that it was suspending the Internet expansion project being undertaken by Haefele Connect, citing the unauthorized pole and facility installations that have taken place in both towns by the company.
The New York State Broadband Program Office is a division of the New York State Urban Development Corporation.
On Friday, Lee Haefele responded to the criticisms of the project contained in that letter. (A copy of the state’s letter can be found in the Morning Times’ data center at www.morning-times.com.)
The following is Lee Haefele’s response in its entirety:
“Haefele Connect delivered correspondence to the Town of Barton to notify the Town of Barton that we were working in collaboration with New York state to resolve any questions concerning pole attachments and the two poles that had been installed on a private piece of property. As of ... Feb. 7, 2019, Haefele has successfully completed the list of concerns reported by NYSEG, and we continue to work diligently to resolve any outstanding questions from NYSEG.
“Haefele Connect had placed two poles on private property in the Town of Barton within the existing utility right of way. This placement of poles is expressly permitted under the federal law that governs cable installation, which is known as the Cable Act, and which has been the law governing cable system installation since 1984. Even though the placement of these two poles was permitted under applicable law, as a peacekeeping attempt, Haefele Connect has removed the two poles. In addition, Haefele Connect confirmed with the Candor Town Supervisor that there have been no reports from the Town of Candor as to any issues with any poles.
“Haefele has been transparent with the Broadband Program Office that there were significant delays in the issuance of pole licenses resulting in delays in construction. We subsequently requested an extension, which is under review pending decision on the items that we have resolved. Haefele has been more than willing to complete construction of the cable system, but has to date received no reimbursements on more than 240 miles of construction that we have completed under the grant program. Haefele Connect has spent $3.5 million on this work in accordance with the requirements of the grant agreement with New York state with the understanding that we would be reimbursed.
“Haefele requested permits from the Town of Barton on Nov. 29, 2018 to set poles within the street right of way. The rights to set poles within the street right of way is granted in our Cable Television Franchise. The town’s highway superintendent, Chris Spaulding, has refused to issue the permits.
“I believe that high speed Internet is more than a luxury, it has become essential. We wanted to provide this service to rural unserved and underserved areas. We applied for the grant as a way to better serve the community. We are continuing to work to resolve any outstanding concerns. We have never seen an issue like this in the 36 years that we have been installing cable systems.
“It’s unfortunate that due to a small number of people making complaints, thousands of people will be impacted in having their high-speed internet delayed or cancelled. I plan to attend the Town of Barton meeting scheduled for Monday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss these issues.”
The Monday meeting of the Barton Town Board will be held at the Barton Town Hall on state Route 17C. The public is invited to attend.