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Broadband expansion continues

Several entities, both public and private, are currently submitting applications for Round 2 of the grants, which are expected to bring even more funds to the region.

Among those entities is CBN Connect, a private nonprofit devoted to expanding broadband in Clinton, Essex, and Franklin Counties. Howard Lowe, director of Economic Development at SUNY Plattsburgh, is president of its Project Advisory Board.

"We're committed to making sure that our rural areas have the broadband access to be competitive in the global marketplace," said Lowe, who noted broadband expansion is key to encouraging young people to stay in the region.

One of the growing trends among young people, Lowe said, is that many are becoming accustomed to "having their computer in their pocket" through 3G coverage.

"That's not doable in much of the region, and we have to find a way to make that happen if we're going to keep our communities sustainable."

Lowe said CBN Connect is currently working on a Telemedicine network that will connect hospitals in Saranac Lake, Malone, Elizabethtown, Plattsburgh, and St. Regis with a 260-mile ring of fiber-optic network line, some of which could be leased to internet service providers.

"We have the funds to begin building that network later this year," said Lowe, "maybe this fall."

CBN Connect Executive Director Julie West said the organization has also applied for a Round 2 grant in hopes of laying down new fiber through Warren, Washington, and Hamilton Counties.

"We will not be a service provider to end users," she explained. "We will be a transport for service providers to end users."

The proposal for the 1,023-mile loop is one of many projects throughout the North Country that will await announcement of the Round 2 grant awards, expected sometime this fall.

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