Adirondack Communities Search For Ways To Expand Broadband

Oct 10, 2013

The City of Glens Falls has given a green light to a company that will expand a fiber optic network to bring broadband internet to more subscribers. But other rural communities are taking a different direction.

Credit Tom Check / Flickr

This week the Glens Falls Common Council voted in favor of a measure that paves the way for company First Light Fiber to wrap fiber-optic high-speed internet cable on existing utility lines.

Glens Falls’ downtown businesses and health centers have previously had access to broadband. The encroachment permit allows new fiber to be strung along sections of Sherman Avenue and Quade Street.

Jim Capuano is Senior Vice President and Chief of Network Operations at First Light.

“What we want to do is build…more of a spiderweb to gain more access into some of the off-the-beaten-path buildings,” said Capuano.

Capuano said he hopes to have the network expansion which will allow more business in the city to connect, to be completed within the next few months.

However, other neighboring communities must sometimes take a different approach.

Further North in Warren County, the town of Thurman, which is entirely located within the Adirondack Park has had limited internet access. However, the town is pursuing a white-space internet system – which through a connected transmitter will send a wireless internet signal through analog TV channels.

Evelyn Wood is Thurman’s town supervisor. She said town residents currently can access the internet through satellite service, and very few residents can access service through Verizon, but most of the town is without service.  

“We felt it would be a good move for the town, and it definitely would get the internet available to the small businesses that have really been struggling, as well as residents in that first section – there’d be about 89 houses,” said Wood.

Thurman chose to go with the white-space model after a trial project was run this summer with positive feedback. The trial project was partially funded with a $200,000 grant from the state’s Connect NY, a $25 million dollar grant program to develop the white space system.

Wood said subscribers will be able to subscribe to the service at a comparable rate.

“The homeowner will have to purchase their initial installation package and have that installed in their house and then sign up for service,” said Wood. “From there the monthly fee would between 45 and 50 [dollars], which is comparable.”

Thurman opened bids for the project earlier this week. 80 to 90 households would be able to use the white space internet when completed.

Ed Bartholomew, CEO of the Adirondack Gateway Council, congratulated Thurman’s success in acquiring the grant money, but said that it won’t be possible for all underserved and unserved communities to rely on public funding.

“Obviously that’s not an economic model that can work successfully throughout the Adirondacks so we have to wait with further technology with white space, but in the interim we need to be looking at ways that we can bring some broadband into schools or community schools, or senior citizen centers or town halls where people can come and really utilize that as an anchor broadband location,” said Bartholomew.

At a recent broadband symposium held by New York Congressman Chris Gibson at SUNY Cobleskill, Jennifer Gregory, Assistant Director of the Southern Tier East Regional Planning Development Board, expressed the importance of community planning and cooperation among rural communities, and how a multitude of organizations were able to work together to tackle existing issues to secure funding to expand broadband in her region.

“We brought together the hospitals, the healthcare institutions, the universities, the SUNY’s, the elementary schools anyone who needs that service,” said Gregory. “Those are the community leaders that can go and reach out to the community, too, and say ‘this is what we’re looking for.’”

The Adirondack Gateway Council has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to conduct a study on broadband in unserved and underserved area in the greater Glens Falls area, including portions of Washington, Warren, and Saratoga Counties.

Bartholomew hopes the study can find pinpoint new markets and assist the private sector in connecting individuals.

“We hope that with the market study that we’re going to be able to indentify further markets in the greater Glens Falls area where we can patch up underserved areas, and then look in the North Country to see where it’s economically feasible for providers to extend their service at a cost that is affordable for the consumer, as well as by Verizon, or Time Warner, or TimeLink, or Ion, or FirstLight to invest their time and money into this.”