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Needing Capacity

Counties looking for better broadband

March 11, 2012
By MIKE ZUMMO , The Leader Herald

For those who live in the rural parts of Fulton and Hamilton counties, there is an effort to connect them with the rest of the world at the speed of broadband.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to devote $25 million of a job creation fund to expand broadband Internet access to rural upstate as a way to create jobs.

The high-technology effort could also potentially provide far more cellular telephone coverage to the Adirondacks.

Article Photos

This screen shot shows a broadband map for the area. Areas shaded in red have no access to broadband, according to New York state.

Cuomo is working with legislators to devote $25 million from the $75 million New York Works Economic Development Fund in his proposed budget.

The Legislature would have to approve that use of the job-creating fund as well as a law that would allow partnerships with private companies to implement high-speed broadband coverage.

According to the state broadband map, which was last updated in October, there are small pockets in the rural areas of Fulton and Hamilton counties that have no access to broadband.

One area encompasses Route 125, Barlow, Tannery and Tolmantown roads in Bleecker and the town of Mayfield near the border with Benson. Broadband also is lacking in several areas in western Stratford.

Patches also are scattered throughout Hamilton County.

Almost all of Montgomery County has some kind of broadband access, with the exception of remote areas in the town of St. Johnsville.

Of the two main broadband providers in the area, Frontier's DSL expands the farthest with the service available along populated areas in the county. Time Warner Cable, according to the state broadband map, only extends to the more densely populated areas in Fulton and Montgomery counties.

According to the Fulton and Montgomery county regional business plan, area chief executive officers have expressed concern about the availability of high-speed broadband capacity. The lack of availability could hinder economic growth, they say.

"Existing businesses utilize and rely on high-speed Internet service to conduct all aspects of their business. At present, there are problems and issues with the availability and capacity of broadband that's available here in the region."

Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz said the CEOs met recently and said they will ask the Fulton and Montgomery County chambers of commerce to conduct a survey of businesses on the issue.

"They're trying to reach out to the entire business community in both counties and what those issues and concerns are, and tally the results," he said.

Mraz said he is unsure of the effect the personnel changes at the two chambers, which also are discussing the possibility of merging into one, will have on the process. Both chambers saw their presidents depart last year, and Fulton County Interim President Terry Swierzowski recently announced her resignation at the end of the month.

Peter Capobianco is leading the Montgomery County chamber on an interim basis.

"At some point, the chambers will be able to get to that and see what kind of input is received," Mraz said.

One project for Hamilton County is the Rural Hamilton Broadband Project, which would install fiber-optic equipment to provide broadband service to several communities in the county that have no broadband capacity.

According to the state broadband map, there is no fiber-optic broadband in Fulton, Montgomery or Hamilton counties.

There was an award through the Empire State Development Corp. to Slic Network Solutions that would construct 25 miles of fiber-optic cable from Tupper Lake in Franklin County to Long Lake in Hamilton County. The state awarded $596,000 for that project.

According to the North Country Regional Council's plan, broadband supports business, education, health care, government and social functions. The lack of broadband facilities in the county puts residents, businesses and institutions at a disadvantage, the plan states. The plan says the project would create 15 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs by the second year.

William Farber, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, could not be reached for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 
 

 

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