Report Finds Broadband Internet Gaps Persist In Columbia County
Columbia County is taking another step toward securing federal funding to bring in blanket broadband coverage.
The Columbia County Economic Development Corporation has released a report identifying 12 areas in the county that lack broadband infrastructure. The study, conducted via MC Fiber Services, was done at the request of the county Board of Supervisors.
CEDC President F. Michael Tucker says the survey found broadband service lacking in the towns of Ancram, Austerlitz, Canaan, Chatham, Claverack, Copake, Ghent, Hillsdale, Kinderhook, New Lebanon, Stockport, and Stuyvesant.
"We have been working with a number of town broadband committees through the Board of Supervisors and have come up with a result that at this point, we've identified approximately 1100 addresses where broadband needs to be upgraded or become available."
The study determined there were no unserved locations in Hudson, Clermont, Gallatin, Germantown, Greenport, Livingston, or Taghkanic.
"We've been working with Congressman Antonio Delgado, who recently secured a $850,000 grant for the towns of Austerlitz, Canaan, Ghent and New Lebanon. And those funds, if released, will enable us to combine those dollars with other funding available to ensure that broadband can be brought to all the residents of Columbia County."
Delgado, a Democrat who represents the 19th district, stopped by Ghent in early August to announce that he had secured the funding in the House-passed Appropriations Package to help deliver broadband to 300 homes and businesses.
"And so there is a sense of urgency here, that we want to make sure that individuals have the bare minimum of access in the 21st century, to both tend to themselves, tend to their families, tend to their elders, tend to their children, tend to their business, tend to their farms. And you can do that. If you have broadband, you can do it."
The report concludes the county is in an excellent position to secure funding early, either routed through the NY Broadband Program Office (BPO) or directly from U.S. Department of Agriculture. The money could be used to enable local companies, working together, to expand wireless services through the use of micro-cells and Wi-Fi hot spots, which Tucker says would move the goal of blanket broadband coverage closer.
"Columbia County has four broadband providers and working with them and with the identified addresses and applying for the federal stimulus funding. I would hope that we could be in a situation where we were at 99% by the end of 2022."
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 includes up to $350 billion in funding to be distributed directly to the states for broadband projects. The final funding rules are expected to be announced soon.