Adirondack cell service encouraged

By GREG HITCHCOCK, The Leader-Herald

Published on Thursday, April 05, 2007 - The Leader-Herald

LAKE PLEASANT State and Hamilton County government leaders Wednesday emphasized the need for cell phone and broadband Internet services in the Adirondacks.

The Assembly Republican Steering Committee and county government leaders talked about the dangerous consequences of substandard cell service in Adirondack communities and the potentially positive effects of bringing cellular and broadband technology to North Country families and small businesses.

Federal law limits development in the Adirondack State Park, and environmental groups oppose plans for cell towers there.

The state legislators said the state could provide money to start cell and broadband services.

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, said $5 million was left in the state budget for broadband service.

"Tourism is one of the selling points [for Hamilton County]," Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chairman and Morehouse Supervisor William G. Farber said. "It is a necessity, not a luxury."

He said without the ability to transact business because of a lack of technology, businesses won't come to the county.

"To wire the county, we are talking about a major undertaking," Hamilton County Economic Development & Tourism Director William Osborne said.

According to a Republican Conference Assembly news release, as part of their Road to Reform plan, Assembly Republicans support expanding telecommunications services by improving cell phone coverage throughout New York state.

"The lack of reliable cell phone service, an essential tool in today's economy, has significantly handicapped and weakened many local economies in rural areas of the state. High-speed broadband access provides information over the Internet more quickly than a dial-up connection, improving productivity," the news release stated.

Wells Supervisor Brian E. Towers said by providing cell phone coverage on major thoroughfares, emergency workers can use it to assist in accidents and other crises.

David Bonner, chief executive officer of the Adirondack Area Network, said many people need to be on a broadband Internet network to make it viable.

"If you don't have at least 100 customers, you won't make it viable," he said. "You go to a small town and you need to restructure and hope for stability. You need consensus and good partnerships to sustain infrastructure."

Bonner said if a town loses its school district as a customer, it loses the heartbeat of the network.

Assemblyman Bill Reilich, R-Greece, the Assembly Republican Steering Committee chairman, said he thought government competes with private business, driving private businesses out of the market.

"At some point, a private entity would come in to provide this service," he said.

Greg Hitchcock covers rural news. He can be reached at ruralnews@leaderherald.com