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Consultant: Funding for broadband exists

Mar 12, 2016 12:04 am

John Mason reports in the Register-Star on the broadband presentation made Wed., Mar. 9, by Joseph Starks to the Columbia County Board of Supervisors. Starks was hired by officials to conduct a study of the county's broadband service. According to July 2014 data from the New York State Broadband Program Office, 74 percent of the county’s population is unserved by broadband of 6 megabits or more per second. Stark told the supervisors Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's new New York Broadband Plan, which provides funding to broadband providers to add service in remote rural areas, will do little for Columbia County. The pending merger of Time-Warner and Charter Communications carries with it the stipulation that the merged company provide broadband to unserved customers. However, areas served by that company are not eligible for the state funding. Stark, however, suggested the county find funding for broadband expansion through E-rate, a federal funding program for schools and libraries. Stark has recommended the county bring dark fiber to all county schools as the basis for a countywide fiberoptic network. In addition to schools and libraries, public safety towers could be included, as well as volunteer fire and police departments, state police and rescue squads. Starks said a similar approach has been applied in the North Country and in seven counties in the Southern Tier. “E-rate is a unique opportunity. We need to take advantage of it,” Starks said. Read the full story in the Register-Star.