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Officials: broadband access crucial to survival of Adirondack communities

QUEENSBURY - Local citizens, business owners and local officials in remote upstate regions should join together in lobbying the state and federal legislators to bankroll rural broadband infrastructure, government officials said this week.

At a broadband conference convened Aug. 19 by U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy (D-Glens Falls), a panel of government technology officials, politicians and communications technology developers agreed that broadband access is critical to not only the economic vitality of the Adirondacks, but for the very survival of rural communities across upstate New York.

Howard Lowe, president of not-for-profit broadband developer CBN Connect, told the audience that his company had submitted an application Aug. 19 for $22 million of federal stimulus money to fund their project providing core broadband infrastructure in a 425-mile loop through Essex, Franklin and Clinton counties, serving 22 communities.

This optic-cable circuit would stretch in an arch across northern New York from the St. Regis Mohawk reservation eastward through Malone and Routes Point, then south to Plattsburgh and Ticonderoga. This circuit is expected to be extended through rural Warren and Hamilton counties in a forthcoming second phase of the proposed buildout, according to a contract the counties signed just weeks ago with CBN Connect. This initial circuit includes a spur serving Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake.

Lowe estimated that if the $22 million stimulus grant is approved, this initial broadband circuit could be operating as soon as spring 2011, and the Warren County extension six months or more later.

Served first would be the public entities, including libraries educational institutions, hospitals and clinics, and public safety authorities.

Various broadband carriers, Lowe said, would use this infrastructure - most all of it high-capacity 144-strand fiber-optic cable strung along utility poles - to carry their customers, both commercial and residential.

The participating commercial carriers - cable companies and telecoms - would build out the "last mile" to the homes and businesses they'd service, he said.

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