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Internet availability in the Hilltowns is improving, but affordability remains an issue

Feb 15, 2021 3:00 pm

 Noah Zweifel is reporting for The Altamont Enterprise some residents of Rensselaerville, Knox, Westerlo and Berne are now able to sign up for satellite internet service provided by the SpaceX program Starlink as part of a service expansion subsidized by the Federal Communications Commission. However, the high cost of signing up, as well as the monthly subscription fees may stop people from getting online. The offer is projected to be available by the end of 2021. SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk in 2002 with the goal of reducing the cost of space transportation so that Mars can be colonized. In 2015, Musk announced the development of Starlink, a satellite constellation, to provide broadband internet service. The state began subsidizing internet service expansion in 2015, when it launched a three-phase “Broadband for All” program that would provide nearly $750 million in private and public funds dedicated to coverage. Berne Town Supervisor Sean Lyons said his home on Bradt Hollow Road was meant to be covered in the third phase of the program in 2018, but that he has yet to see any benefit nearly three years later, even though fiber-optic cables were installed last summer. In Westerlo, Planning Board Chair Dotty Verch, who also heads the town’s broadband committee, said state Senator Michelle Hinchey’s office had indicated to her that Hinchey would “be getting involved” in the expansion efforts. While SpaceX appears on track to address issues of coverage, affordability is still an obstacle in the area, where the poverty rate hovers around 6 percent, according to census data. To use Starlink’s satellite service, residents will have to come up with $600 to cover sign-up costs. Service will cost $99 per month, nearly twice as expensive as the cheapest rate advertised by Hudson Valley Wireless. Read the full story in The Altamont Enterprise.