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Jones, Little talk about their cellphone task force

State Sen. Betty Little speaks Friday at the Saranac Lake village offices. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — State Sen. Betty Little and Assemblyman Billy Jones both represent the Adirondacks on the Upstate Cellular Coverage Task Force. After around two months, they said they are preparing to take actions based on the information gathered through the 16-member board.

First, Little, R-Queensbury, and Jones, D-Plattsburgh, had to educate the state on how little cell coverage there is on North Country roads. Little said the state’s maps were based on 3G, not 4G technology. Those maps have now been redrawn, and according to Little, “There’s a lot more red.”

Little said the board’s first focus is on ensuring coverage on the major roads, including state Routes 3 and 30, heading from Plattsburgh and Malone to the Tri-Lakes area, respectively, as well as state Route 28 between Warrensburg and Indian Lake.

“The task force should be wrapped up here in a little bit, and we’re hoping that recommendations come out of it,” Jones said.

He said one of the recommendations he hopes for is budget items in the 2020 budget for infrastructure improvements. Little has a focus on making towers taller, to reach above the tree line. She also wants the state to reduce time on permitting and to keep the number of towers low. She said these fewer, taller towers could be dressed up to blend in with the surrounding forest.

Assemblyman Billy Jones speaks Friday at the Saranac Lake village offices. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone

Jones said he is not talking about towers specifically. He said that with more people putting more devices on networks and using more data, the infrastructure is strained and coverage zones are shrinking.

“Even in routes in and out of Plattsburgh I’m seeing right now, where there was cell service before — like (state Route) 374 — I don’t have signal there anymore,” Jones said.

The task force is administered by Empire State Development and will make recommendations to be incorporated into the governor’s 2020 agenda.

“It’s working … I think,” Little said.

In 2015, the governor launched the $500 million New NY Broadband Program to achieve statewide high-speed Internet access. He claims that after full implementation of the program, more than 99% of New Yorkers will have access to wired high-speed internet.