FORT EDWARD -- With $100,000 and a piecemeal approach, Washington County officials are hoping to broaden existing Internet connections throughout the county.
Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, said her office allocated the funding to Washington County for economic development in the spring of 2008, but that the county never claimed it.
Using the money to expand broadband Internet, Little said, would help attract businesses to the county, which would boost local economy.
Tori Riley, president and director of the Washington County Local Development Corp., said the money was originally assigned to three different economic development projects that "fell dead in the water."
But with the funds still available, Riley said the LDC and County Administrator Kevin Hayes thought there is no better way to use the funding than to start connecting some of the dots on broadband.
Of the $100,000, Riley said Little's office promised to give $20,000 to the town of Cambridge.
"They have been asking for a long time to improve the broadband in Cambridge," Little said.
"They have DSL with Verizon and it doesn't go all the way to the Town hall and the Town Court. It has a range, so you pick it up and they are beyond the range," she said.
Since he got elected as the Cambridge town supervisor, Little said, William "Beaver" Watkins has been calling her office to see if there is any way to expand the range.
Although a portion is slated for Cambridge, Riley said, she and Hayes thought it would be better for all county residents to find areas where they can bridge gaps between existing Internet connections, rather than dividing the money, so each individual township can work on their own.
"So we put together a map that shows where there is DSL, where there's cable and where there is no coverage at all," she said.
The map, which uses approximate data collected by the New York State Geographic Information Systems Clearinghouse through the state Office of Cyber Security, also designates municipal boundaries -- areas where the connection is a result of a municipal franchise agreement with a certain telephone and Internet carrier.
The local agreement is with the municipality and stipulates how the company operates in that community, including payment for the franchise fees and extension of cable, said Jennifer Reed Holick, a spokeswoman for Time Warner Cable.
"In terms of franchise fees, most communities elect to receive these fees and they are calculated as a percentage of gross revenues received in that community," she said.
With the coverage map, Riley said they were able to find mile-long stretches where there is a gap in the connection.
"If we started investing in that stretch, we could connect the cable, which will expand broadband and the accessibility for both residents and businesses, as well as benefit where there is available space and land for future businesses to come," she said.
Riley said the LDC is going to meet with Time Warner and Verizon to see which company would be willing to work with the county.
Although Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said the company probably wouldn't acknowledge any contractual conversations with Washington County, but added that part of Verizon's business is finding solutions to lack of coverage, whether it be through a wire connector or wireless broadband.
"My point is that anything is doable, but I don't know any particulars about what we proposed or what their needs are," he said.
Riley said the next step is to make recommendations to the Agriculture, Planning, Tourism and Community Development Committee as to how to proceed with utilizing the funds to expand broadband.