Tupper Lake is part of the Tri-Lakes area of the Adirondacks that includes Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. Its primary draw is access to the surrounding mountains, lakes and the Wild Center. But its remote location makes accessible high-speed internet service access a challenge. A new grant will help the Town of Tupper Lake expand broadband service to businesses and some residents.
The Tupper Lake Broadband Committee formed last year. Its initial survey found that access and quality of internet service did not meet needs in the community. Development Authority of the North Country, or DANC, General Manager for Telecommunications Dave Wolf led an effort to obtain a $200,000 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission to fund 5 miles of upgrades to Tupper Lake’s business district and some additional businesses and residences. “For the existing businesses it’s more about reliability. We were talking to one business owner who said I was out of service for a day and a half and that is almost impossible to do because now I’ve got to write down credit card numbers and wait for a day to charge people and stuff like that and it just was very difficult. So I think the reliability is important. You know right now it provides the opportunity to attract data intensive businesses. And knowing that you have a wired community that you can get any bandwidth you want, that the entire town is covered, I think will speak to maybe the ability to hopefully attract another business or two into the downtown.”
A priority for 115th District State Assemblyman D. Billy Jones is getting high-speed internet into the more remote areas of the Adirondacks. “This is one of the most important things we can do is to connect the North Country because it affects so much: economic development, education. We see now with the remote learning and distance learning how important that is. It’s not a luxury anymore. We need more subsidies to help with the affordability of it, more grant funding, more funding in general for these important services because I just believe it touches so much and that we need it. Around the Adirondacks, all around the North Country rural broadband is so hard to get, rural internet is so hard to get, we need to do everything we can to do that.”
Over 40 percent of families in the region live below what’s called the ALICE threshold – earning more than the federal poverty limit but not enough to be financially stable. United Way of the Adirondack Region President and CEO John Bernardi says finding ways to affordably provide access to reliable high-speed internet is particularly important to these ALICE, or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, families. “With remote learning, distance learning, hybrid models there are numerous ALICE families across the region that either don’t have access to what they need or can’t afford what they need. And we’re working closely with the school districts across the region to try to assess these needs and address them. In some cases its one family at a time. In other cases its whole communities, whole areas of our region, that are struggling with this issue. But it’s more important now than it ever has been and that importance is not going to go away.”
Construction on the fiber optic network in Tupper Lake will begin in the spring and service is expected to be available in the summer of 2021.