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Washington County looks at way to get more broadband service

Washington County looks at way to get more broadband service

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FORT EDWARD -- Washington County supervisors gave preliminary approval last week to a public/private partnership under which area broadband providers could use government infrastructure to promulgate Internet access.

Washington County Local Development Corp. President Tori Riley asked the county Board of Supervisors Government Operations Committee Tuesday to allow Hudson Valley Wireless Inc. to place its microwave transmitters atop the county’s emergency communication towers and other high-standing infrastructure.

The agreement between the county, Hudson Valley Wireless and PrimeLink, a Plattsburgh firm running fiber optic cable along the region’s main roads, could open opportunities for obtaining state technology grants and bringing broadband to otherwise unserved back-road households.

“It’s a delusion to think we’re going to have fiber running up and down every road in the county,” Riley said.

Matt Guzzo, a manager for Hudson Valley Wireless, said his company’s radio signal could be substantially boosted by connecting to PrimeLink’s highway-following fiber. The more powerful radio frequency, a line-of-sight technology, could then be sited at additional locations by using government towers and private farm silos, he said.

The low population densities in the county’s most rural areas means the company must site its technology in a way that at least 20 or so households can be served — otherwise, it’s not economically viable, Guzzo said. The signal covers an area with about an 8-mile radius.

The county operates several emergency communication towers throughout the county, including rural areas such as Hebron’s Big Burch Mountain, that are currently without most forms of high-speed Internet.

Hudson Valley Wireless’ technology often can’t co-locate on existing cell towers because the two RF signals tend to interfere with each other, Guzzo said.

The Government Operations Committee unanimously supported the concept, but wanted more details.

County Attorney Roger Wickes noted that many county-operated towers are on private land, while others already have private technology affixed to them.

“Philosophically, I have no problem with it,” said Hampton Supervisor Dave O’Brien. “But I think we need to do it on a tower by tower basis.”

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