Six counties in the Adirondack region are cooperating in an application for a federal grant to bring high-speed broadband to nearly 3,000 homes, businesses and institutions.
Warren, Washington, Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton counties are applying to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for the North Country Broadband Deployment Program. The program’s goal is to provide broadband to unserved or underserved areas.
The counties and four participating broadband providers — Charter/Spectrum, SLIC Network Solutions, Champlain Technology Group, and Hudson Valley Wireless — have committed to self-funding at least 10% of the project’s cost. Officials hope that commitment will increase the chances for funding in what is expected to be a highly competitive nationwide review process.
“Warren County is proud to join in this regional effort to address a critically important, shared challenge together,” said Johnsburg Supervisor Andrea Hogan, chairwoman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors’ Economic Growth & Development Committee, in a news release.
Morehouse Supervisor William Farber, who is chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, said inadequate technology infrastructure is perhaps the greatest challenge facing the region.
“The digital divide jeopardizes public health and safety, greatly impedes economic growth, and restricts the quality of life for residents and visitors. We have intuitively known this for some time, but the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the consequences in no uncertain terms,” he said in a news release.
The application notes that 30% of the telehealth sessions in the region failed during the early days of the pandemic because of inadequate broadband and cellular service, according to research conducted by the Adirondack Health Institute.
In addition, the application tells of students who were forced to sit in the parking lots of Wi-Fi-accessible public buildings to download classroom assignments, and of school districts that had to mail hard-copy homework packets to students’ homes.
In addition, businesses have had difficulty with inadequate coverage as they tried to launch online shopping and other initiatives.
After completion of the project, all areas would have broadband coverage of at least 25 megabits per second download speed.