Officials praise successful Keene broadband project

Several regional coalitions successfully lobbied for federal stimulus monies last year in order to establish broadband internet service for rural areas of the North Country.

Officials hope that universal broadband access will attract families and young people to the Adirondack North Country, where - like many rural areas of the country - the population is steadily aging.

But in the Essex County town of Keene, a grassroots effort successfully established high-speed internet access without the help of federal dollars - and the project could serve as a model for other communities in the Adirondacks.

Two of the men behind the effort presented their project to the Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners Thursday morning.

David Mason and Jim Herman are the co-directors of the Keene New York Town-Wide Broadband Internet Project. The duo started out four years ago to bring universal broadband internet service to their community.

Herman says the goal was to make broadband internet available to approximately 1,000 homes and businesses in Keene and Keene Valley.

"We started out this project with the vision of universal service," he said. "We believe that broadband internet should be something that every home and business in the town of Keene - and in general - should have. And as we looked into the possibilities, we came up with the specific goal of getting that service to 90 percent of homes and businesses in town."

Herman says universal access throughout the town of Keene would have been nearly impossible - with many homes in the area being off the grid or seasonal.

But they wouldn't back down from their goal of making high-speed internet readily available for all students. Herman says good internet access is a critical tool for students in rural areas.

"A student going through school today, preparing to enter the workforce or preparing to enter college, must have good skills in using the resources on the internet today," he said. "And you're not going to get that from just using the computer lab twice a week at school."

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