Access to high-speed Internet is just as crucial to economic development today as electricity was 100 years ago.
It is even more important in rural areas like the Adirondack Region, where a commute is often complicated by distance and weather.
The largest economic engines of the region used to be mining, lumbering and agriculture — and associated industries. But as those employers slowly evaporated, so too did jobs, and many families moved away. As a result, school enrollments have dwindled, giving way to mostly second homeowners instead of full-time residents.
After obtaining high school degrees, children are often forced to trade the great quality of life here in the Adirondack Park for better-paying urban jobs. Many move away for college or military service and never return.
One answer to our economic deficit is telecommuting — working from home for a company out of town, the park, the state or even the country. Telecommuting is a great way to give people a chance to live and make a living in the Adirondack Region, and companies worldwide are starting to take notice.
Telecommuting is personally satisfying — often allowing the worker more family face time — and environmentally responsible — making it a near perfect fit for this region of New York state.
To allow it, however, companies and employees need access to a reliable and comprehensive network of high-speed broadband.
The problem for Internet providers such as Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, however, is the high cost of reaching all household in remote Adirondack communities. While there are several forms of broadband available in the park — such as cable, satellite and DSL — fiber optic is preferred because it offers much faster data transmission speeds.
But local communities can band together and help in the process, thanks to a federal program. The USDA was a forerunner in advocating for rural communities to be supplied with electricity in 1935 through the Rural Electrification Administration. Today it offers grants for bringing broadband services to rural communities.