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Stefanik Gets Update On Small Town Broadband Service

Lucas Willard

With an important visitor on the way, New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik made the rounds in a portion of her district Wednesday.

On the way through a southern portion of her district that extends from Saratoga to Plattsburgh, the 21st district representative met with constituents on a variety of issues. In the tiny Warren County town of Thurman, the Congresswoman got a status update on work being done to extend wireless internet to town residents.

13 homes in the community are hooked into the town’s White Space wireless internet system. The technology uses UHF television signals to transmit wireless internet from a fixed antenna.

Stefanik said she wanted to hear more about the program that launched this spring. 

“I also want to help share the lessons learned from the White Space Project with other towns and villages in the Adirondacks. Rural broadband is an issue that affects our ability to attract and keep young people, it affects our ability to promote small businesses, and it just is connecting us to a 21st Century economy.”

High speed internet is not easily found in many parts of the Adirondacks. Many residents still rely on dialup or satellite service. Standing outside Thurman Town Hall Wednesday, I couldn’t get a signal on my cell phone, either.

Town supervisor Evelyn Wood said White Space will help connect people who still use decades-old technology to connect.

“It’s been a very big help for our economic development here in town in allowing small businesses now to print their UPS labels quickly, to go ahead and process credit cards, do internet business. I know we have one business in town, they predominantly do their business by  internet. And they’re dealing with people in Texas and California more so than just the locals,” said Wood.

White Space Project is currently sending its wireless signal out of a single tower and plans to set up three more.

White Space Project co-founder Ava Ashendorff says they’re working to spread the news about the technology in as many ways  they can.

“Usually we send them postcards and say ‘Come get it!’. So we’re ready to supply right now at this point 40 homes with the one pole that we have. Out of the 40, 13 people have signed up.”

Supervisor Wood said she and Ashendorff discussed with Stefanik the possibility of securing federal dollars to help Thurman and other towns expand broadband access.

“We were able to talk about some of the requirements on the USDA loans which can be a little bit rigorous and there are a few minor tweaks there and if they were made, certainly would help rural towns across the nation, I think.”

The Congresswoman also met with leaders at AngioDynamics, a medical device manufacturer in Glens Falls. The region is sometimes referred to as the “Catheter Valley.” Stefanik said she seeks a repeal of the medical device tax, a measure the House has already passed.

“And I hope the president doesn’t veto it because it’s a common-sense fix to the Affordable Care Act.”

Later, the freshman Congresswoman was scheduled to be joined for the second time by House Speaker John Boehner at a fundraiser dinner in Saratoga Springs organized by local business owners. Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, said she is proud to have the Speaker’s support.

“He knows that I’m working hard on behalf of this district in Congress. I’m working on a bipartisan basis and really trying to bring fresh energy to representing New York’s 21st District.”

As with Boehner’s last visit to support Stefanik during election season, the speaker is expected to be greeted by protesters. 

The geographically large district was previously represented by Bill Owens, a Democrat, who retired.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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