LAKE PLACID - With quite a few broadband projects at various stages around the North Country, state Sen. Betty Little brought them all together recently to find out where broadband access in the area has been, where it is now and where it's going.
"All of us recognize the importance of broadband," Little, R-Queensbury, said in her opening remarks Friday at the summit, held at the High Peaks Resort. "Internet and wireless connectivity is not an option, and it's not a luxury but a necessity to compete economically, provide important services such as health care, education and public safety, and also to improve on the quality of our lives."
Presenter after presenter talked about how important having broadband service is to attracting and keeping young people in the area, something that the Adirondack Park has a hard time doing, according to the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project.
Bill Johnson, assistant deputy director of the state Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Coordination, shows a crowd a map of broadband coverage in the North Country at state Sen. Betty Little’s Broadband Summit last week.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
Melodie Mayberry-Stewart, the state's chief information officer and director of the state Office for Technology, told the crowd of about 100 gathered on a sunny, warm Friday afternoon that the U.S. is often ranked between 20th and 28th in Internet speed among the countries of the world.
Bill Johnson, assistant deputy director of the state Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Coordination, gave a sneak preview of maps the state is compiling that show where broadband access is available and where it's lacking throughout the state. The state plans to put the maps online later this summer, and residents will be able to select different areas to see how certain regions measure up against others, Johnson said.
According to initial data, Johnson said about 9 percent of households in Little's six-county district have no access to broadband of any kind.
About 56 percent of households have access to DSL broadband, about 65 percent have access to cable broadband, and only about 2 percent have access to fiber-optic broadband, Johnson said. His maps also showed that there are only a few places where people have more than two options for what kind of broadband to use.
Each organization that is working on broadband projects in the North Country made a short presentation, including the following:
CBN Connect is led by Howard Lowe and Julie West, who are working to create a ring of fiber throughout Franklin, Essex, Clinton, Hamilton, Warren and Washington counties that private companies would be able to hook up to and sell access to residents. They were denied first-round American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money but are hopeful that their application for the second round will be accepted. Applicants expect to hear about stimulus funding by June or July.
Lowe and West are also involved in an FCC Telemedicine Network, which is mainly to connect hospitals and health care facilities but will lease out extra bandwidth to cover expenses. Construction is about to begin on this network.
Google the Adirondacks is an attempt by the Tri-Lakes to win a contest put on by Google to put in a test super-fast fiber network. Sylvie Nelson, of the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, showed the video made as part of the contest entry and encouraged people to continue to support the project online through online testimonials and the project's Facebook group.
The Development Authority of the North Country already created a fiber ring throughout the three-county area in the northwest part of the North Country and is looking to work with ION HoldCo LLC to extend its network into parts of the Adirondacks and other areas of the state.
Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.