GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The fight to connect broadband internet to the North Country corners that don’t have it is a battle built on grants.
This week, Warren County Economic Development Corporation helped six counties – Clinton, Essex, Frankin, Hamilton, Warren and Washington – to jointly apply to a new broadband grant program from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s North Country Broadband Deployment Program.
“Inadequate technology infrastructure is perhaps the single greatest consequential challenge facing our region,” said William Farber, chair of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors and supervisor of the Town of Morehouse. “The digital divide jeopardizes public health and safety, greatly impedes economic growth, and restricts the quality of life for residents and visitors.”
The grant would help high-speed internet come to nearly 3,000 homes across underserved parts of the North Country.
The COVID-19 pandemic was cited as a huge motivating factor, and a wake-up call, for rural county officials.
Data sent by the EDC shows that 30% of telehealth options across the North Country failed early on in the pandemic. The counties’ application recounts students using wi-fi hotspots in parking lots as their only internet options for completing homework.
The need for internet also coincides with Warren County EDC’s goal of inviting more businesses and telecommuters to relocate to the North Country region.
“The days of talking about regionalization in the Adirondacks are over. We’re doing it,” said Jim Siplon, president of EDC Warren County. “The energy and enthusiasm that county leaders have brought to this project is contagious and I’m confident it will lead to even more collaborative efforts going forward, whether it be further broadband expansion, housing, transportation or any of the multitude of issues in which we share challenges and opportunities.”
The six counties have committed to self-funding at least 10% of the broadband project’s total cost. They are joined by Charter/Spectrum, SLIC Network Solutions, Champlain Technology Group and Hudson Valley Wireless.
The push comes as Washington County nears the final week of its broadband survey period, in an effort to map out what areas in the rural county need internet assistance the most.