Hamilton County forum centers on broadband

By: Lohr McKinstry
Staff Writer - The Press Republican
April 05, 2007

LAKE PLEASANT A 21st-Century Technology Forum in Lake Pleasant Wednesday centered on the need for high-speed Internet services in remote areas such as Hamilton County.

The Assembly Republican Steering Committee hosted the forum to discuss the need for comprehensive cell-phone service in the Adirondacks, but most of those present said the need for broadband is also important.

"They were concerned with both" broadband and cell service, said Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro). "We learned one is really linked with the other. Broadband in our small communities is not the typical connection you'd see in the cities; it would be a hybrid."

Broadband could be carried by power lines, she said.

"It was very good meeting. We talked about many different issues."

Sayward hosted the gathering along with Assemblyman William Reilich (R-Greece), Assembly Steering Committee chair; and Assemblyman Marc W. Butler (R-Newport).

Most Internet users in Hamilton County still have dial-up connections, said David Bonner of the Adirondack Area Network.

Bonner said his group has helped places like Indian Lake Health Center and Indian Lake Central School install high-speed T-1 lines using grant money.

The cost of such connections is prohibitive for smaller and home users, however, Sayward said.

She said Hamilton County, like most of the Adirondacks, is a beautiful place to live.

"Unfortunately, the lack of broadband and cellular coverage makes it near impossible to attract high-tech businesses and families to the area.

"We had an opportunity to listen to the concerns of local leaders and gather ideas on how best to bring these critical services to families and businesses in the North Country."

Attending the forum were several Hamilton County public officials, including Lake Pleasant Supervisor Frank Mezzano, Long Lake Supervisor Gregg Wallace, Morehouse Supervisor William G. Farber, Benson Supervisor Ermina M. Pincombe, Indian Lake Supervisor Barry J. Hutchins, Wells Supervisor Brian E. Towers, and Hamilton County Sheriff Douglas A. Parker.

Some parts of Hamilton County have DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) service from the phone company, but there's no cable broadband service yet.

Some of the participants talked about potentially life-threatening consequences of substandard cell-phone service in their towns. Two people died on the Adirondack Northway over the winter after their cell phones failed to work in remote parts of the interstate highway.

The new state budget includes $1 million to bring cell service to those sections of I-87 in the Adirondacks that lack it now.