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New Lebanon struggles without broadband

Nov 26, 2016 12:04 am
Ellyn Gaydos in The Columbia Paper goes to New Lebanon to figure out why Columbia County has such lousy broadband service. New Lebanon town Supervisor Colleen Teal, who serves on the broadband subcommittee of the county Board of Supervisors, wrote in a recent email, “I believe that lacking infrastructure is the underpinning of most of the issues that we are dealing with both at the county level and at the individual town levels and broadband is the most critical. If we do not ‘fix’ this, it will be much harder to ‘fix’ the other issues we trying to deal with.” Doug Banker, chairman of the New Lebanon Broadband Committee, worries the latest push from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to make broadband widespread by 2018 won't be different then past efforts. “Individual towns trying to get broadband don’t have enough critical mass to influence Fairpoint to do something better for them at a price they can afford,” he says. But besides Cuomo's efforts, the recent merger of Charter Communications with Time Warner Cable means the new company, now called Spectrum, must provide high speed internet access to underserved rural areas, and Spectrum serves much of rural Columbia County. “They’ve begun updating fiber [optic cables] in central locations,” Banker said. Fairpoint did not respond to The Columbia Paper, but Andrew Russel, from Charter’s media relations, wrote in an email, “Charter is committed to completing our upgrade of the existing Columbia County communities we serve by 2018… deploying our network to 145,000 unserved homes and businesses in rural upstate New York, and to bringing faster broadband speeds to the communities we serve. These investments will all be from Charter, with no state support.” Until then, New Lebanon residents struggle. Sarah Steadman, who runs the Mall of Found artist residency in New Lebanon, says, “If we have artists coming and the internet’s out, which does happen, they can’t access our files. It’s really embarrassing when we’re fundraising with someone," with the current service, “unpredictable, like the weather.” Read the full story in The Columbia Paper.
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