SARANAC LAKE - Franklin County Legislator Barbara Rice has spearheaded an effort to determine the need for more high-speed Internet access in the towns of Franklin and Harrietstown.
The Saranac Lake Democrat said data collected in a brief survey completed by property owners in those towns from Feb. 14 to March 14 will be used to create a business plan for the expansion of broadband service in underserved areas. Once complete, the business plan could then be used to obtain state and federal grants or low-interest loans to fund the expansion of broadband service.
"I sat down with Dave Wolff (secretary of AdkAction.org) and we started looking at how many underserved residents we have in Harrietstown," Rice said. "I realized there are a lot, and it just started taking on a life of its own."
Underserved means there are less than three Internet providers in the area that residents can get service from.
Postcards with instructions on how to access the survey will be mailed to all town of Franklin residents and to all Harrietstown residents who don't live in the village of Saranac Lake, which doesn't qualify as underserved. As an incentive to fill out the survey, the names of those who complete it will be entered into a drawing to win a free round-trip ticket on Cape Air.
The information from the surveys will be analyzed by Paul Smith's College students, and a report will be presented to each town.
"It's really important for our residents and children to have access to quality Internet services," Rice said. "From a business perspective there's also an incentive there, both for existing businesses and to attract new businesses that need high-quality Internet and access to speeds that we certainly don't have right now."
Rice said many people in the region only have access to dial-up service, which is almost completely obsolete these days. By improving access to broadband, local students would benefit and more businesses could be drawn to the area.
Franklin Supervisor Art Willman and Harrietstown Supervisor Bob Bevilacqua helped Rice prepare the survey.
Willman said improved broadband access is long overdue in his town.
"I know it's been a concern for me, personally," Willman said. "I live on probably the last road in town, and not only is there no broadband, there's also no cell (phone) service. Between my neighbors and folks off of Route 3 on Goldsmith Road and further down Swinyer Road, and places where Time Warner didn't go with fiber optic (cable), there are a lot of people that are frustrated."
Willman said some residents opt for satellite service, but that is cost-prohibitive for some.
"My sons work in the computer graphics and animation field, and when they're up here they call my (satellite) service a joke," Willman said. "They would love to come up for longer periods of time, and maybe even build a place that they can work out of, but not with what we have. We can really attract more people because we would have that incentive and that option."
Willman said high-speed Internet would benefit the area economically by attracting businesses that rely on the Internet to function. He said it would also be good for students in the area, who need access to the Internet for many of their classes.
"Let's make it into the 21st century," Willman said. "The way our society and our business is, it's part of the natural progression. It's not a luxury anymore. It's basically a necessity, and if we don't accomplish it, we're going to lose."
Surveys can be accessed online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/town_of_franklin, completed by phone by calling 518-882-4047, or picked up at the Enterprise or the Harrietstown and Franklin town halls.
Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.