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Broadband access critical to Adirondack life

Editorial

AT&T cell phone coverage as of Jan. 20, 2012

AT&T cell phone coverage as of Jan. 20, 2012

Not long ago, having a high-speed data connection to the Internet was considered a luxury. But in recent years, broadband access is not just considered a convenience, it’s a foundation of modern life. For both adults and children, it’s virtually a necessity for work, commerce and education.

In many schools, children are expected to have broadband access at home. Students are instructed to receive assignments and check homework updates on interactive websites, and to communicate with their teachers off-hours via email.

College applications are now completed on websites. People applying for jobs or college admission are expected to submit resumes and information online.

Businesses need this connectivity to stay competitive and survive, whether it’s marketing to customers, dealing with suppliers, or securing sales.

Real estate agents in the Adirondacks and other resort areas report that people seeking to relocate want to know if Internet broadband access is available before they buy property. Hotel and inn proprietors are questioned whether their accommodations have broadband connections and Wi-Fi before vacationers book a room.

Routine banking functions are conducted over the Internet. Patients are increasingly expected to obtain medical test results and communicate with their doctors over the Internet.

However, most small communities in the Adirondacks don’t have broadband access, except for satellite service, which can be unreliable and expensive. DSL service in the region is limited. Many of our area residents have only dial-up service, which isn’t practical in the modern world.

Regardless of the accelerating trend nationally to have employees work from home, it just isn’t happening here. Instead, we’ve seen a steep decline in populations of towns in the core areas of the Adirondacks. The reason, many believe, is due to the lack of broadband access.

In 2009, the Adirondack Regional Assessment Project determined that broadband access in the region was quite limited. The study revealed that only 5 percent of Adirondack communities had widespread broadband access, and these were primarily the moneyed resort towns — or situated on the perimeter of the Adirondack Park.

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