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Regional $39 million broadband grant application denied

A six-county effort to extend broadband into rural towns in the Adirondacks and elsewhere in northern New York was dealt a substantial setback Monday, as federal officials announced the counties' pending $39 million grant application through CBN Connect was not approved.

In their announcement, the federal authorities gave no reason for their denial of the stimulus-funds grant application that would have bankrolled a sprawling fiber-optic network. Area officials last year characterized this proposed broadband circuit as vital to the economic survival of Adirondack communities. The giant fiber-optic loop would have brought telecommunication and high-speed Internet service to vast regions of Essex, Clinton, Franklin, Warren, Hamilton and Washington counties.

The network was envisioned to help boost job opportunities in the region and prompt extensive improvements in services related to education, health care, public service and commerce. The proposed broadband infrastructure was to include high-speed Internet connections, wireless phone, television, and data transmission - serving hospitals and health clinics, colleges and secondary schools and law enforcement authorities as well as businesses and residents.

Warren County Board of Supervisors chairman Fred Monroe said the news of the grant denial, which he received Monday morning, was "distressing."

"This is a huge disappointment, and the consequences are enormous," he said. "This broadband initiative was vital to the greater Adirondack region - it was the number-one priority of Congressman Murphy's office."

Monroe said he received an e-mail announcing the grant denial from Howard Lowe of CBN Connect, which is affiliated with SUNY Plattsburgh.

Lowe said Monday the broadband application was ranked second in the state.

CBN applied for first round stimulus monies last year, but was denied. Backed by local and state officials - as well as federal representatives - the organization reapplied this year with a significantly improved application.

Lowe cited stiff competition as the reason for its second-round demise.

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