If you live in a rural area of the Adirondacks, you have likely experienced the frustration of having little or even no internet connection.
Thanks to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New NY Broadband initiative program, internet access in the Adirondacks is expected to increase substantially by the end of 2018.
About 130,000 people are spread over nearly 6 million acres of land in the Adirondacks. High mountains, sweeping forests, vast amounts of land between municipalities and individual homes, the high cost of installing cable in remote areas, and a lack of towers for broadcasting signals all speak to the challenges local residents can face when it comes to broadband internet access.
Last month, the Intercounty Legislative Committee of the Adirondacks – representing the 12 counties in the region, including Saratoga and Fulton – met with the Empire State Development at the Saratoga Casino Hotel to discuss the New NY Broadband initiative program. The program is putting up $500 million in matching funds for providers who expand broadband to those in rural areas.
“We are tasked with going to the most remote and under-served areas,” Ana Rua, Empire State Development’s Director of Outreach, Innovation and Broadband told The Daily Gazette.
Empire State Development received proposals from private internet and cable television providers interested in participating. Empire State Development will be awarding the funds through its regional offices after reviewing the bids. Contracts are expected to be finalized by early summer.
All applicants had to meet Gov. Cuomo’s goals for funding: addressing unserved or under-served communities, providing a minimum download speed of 100 Mbps (25 Mbps for the most remote areas), and completion of the project by December 2018.
When it comes to the details such as how fast the speed should be, there has been much discussion on exactly what constitutes a reasonable speed and how much to push for. Some say a lower speed is still better than no connection at all, while others disagree.
“If you set the bar too low, that’s all you’ll ever achieve,” Phil Wagschal, President of Slic Network Solutions which installs fiber-optic cable in rural areas told the Times Union. After all, the demand for high speed internet access is only going to grow over time.
Rua appears confident about the bids from the internet and cable providers. “I think we’re in a good position, that it’s going to be all right,” she told The Daily Gazette. “We want the program to meet the highest possible standards.”
The recently approved merger between Time Warner Cable and Chartered Communications may also help with the New NY Broadband program. There was a condition on this merger set by the state Public Service Commission which requires the new company to invest in upgrades and expansions in the areas it serves.
According to Rua, the merger will lead to a $1.1 billion investment by the company with new or upgraded service to about 2 million homes.
The Adirondacks isn’t the only area in New York State with under-served broadband connection. Parts of the Catskills, the Hilltowns south of Albany, and even Long Island are also currently suffering.
Although December 2018 might seem like a long time to wait for better internet connection, Adirondacks residents and visitors should not be discouraged.
Even before this broadband expansion program was launched, a white space broadband service was implemented in the rural town of Thurman last year. This significantly boosted businesses and the overall demeanor of residents.
“Not only are we hooked up, but we are hooked!” Gary Martin of Martin Lumber told the Sun Community News last year.
The Adirondacks has already seen progress, more efforts are currently underway, and a major increase in broadband connection is only a matter of time.