THURMAN — Researchers at the University at Albany are planning to fix the town’s white space system, which has been malfunctioning and left some subscribers without internet for nearly five months.
Researchers Mariya Zheleva and Petko Bogdanov from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences are working with the town and the Warren County Office of Emergency Services to determine ways to improve emergency preparedness and response in rural communities, according to a news release.
The University at Albany received a nearly $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. One of the areas of research is white space, which are the unoccupied frequencies on the broadcast television spectrum.
Fred Engelmann of Rainmaker Network Services told the Town Board on Oct. 18 that the university is willing to pay him to help fix the problems with the system. The system has not been working properly because of problems with the poles that deliver the signals that residents receive with special equipment.
The university was able to provide some extra funding to fix the network, according to Engelmann.
“This collaboration allows me to do repairs for the network, bring it back up to speed at zero cost for the town,” he said, according to a video recording of the meeting.
The Town Board in 2017 had passed a resolution expressing support for Zheleva’s work.
“We are delighted to work with UAlbany on this important research project, and we hope that the project may serve as a model for rural communities anywhere,” Supervisor Cynthia Hyde said in a news release.
The university is looking to develop a smart phone app to help first-responders, government agencies and residents collect and exchange information.
Hyde and board members Joan Harris and Doug Needham voted in favor of allowing Engelmann to proceed. Board members Gail Seaman and Brenda Ackley abstained because they wanted to have assurances in a written contract that the repairs would not cost the town anything.
Resident Rose Slemp said at the meeting that there are also other potential long-term solutions. The number of subscribers on the system has dwindled to less than 10 because of all the problems, according to Slemp.
She said Slic Network Solutions is looking to bring internet services to the town and will be laying the lines in spring and beginning hookups by next summer.
Slemp, who is a member of the Thurman Broadband Initiative Committee, said a meeting for people who are interested in Slic internet is set to take place on Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Thurman Town Hall.