Internet service gets support

A Syracuse-based high-speed Internet provider received a unanimous vote of confidence Friday from th

A Syracuse-based high-speed Internet provider received a unanimous vote of confidence Friday from the county Board of Supervisors for the company’s proposal to offer broadband services throughout the county via existing or upgraded power lines.

The board’s action comes on the heels of a county survey that found widespread demand and support for expanded access to high-speed Internet services, especially in the rural areas now mostly limited to slow, dial-up computer connections.

A resolution approved by all 16 town supervisors supports New Visions Powerline Communications in its “efforts to provide the availability of broadband access throughout Schoharie County.”

Outlining his goal to begin “building a network here” next spring and making it available for subscription fees countywide by the end of 2009, New Visions President Carmen N. Branca Jr. said he was not seeking any money or liability protection from the county.

With the support of county leaders, and boosted by the survey results, Branca said he intends “to put together financial packages” to seek funding for a network of fiber-optic lines to carry the relatively new alternative to existing services provided by cable or telephone providers.

Based on responses on 2,162 surveys returned from 16,452 households, county Central Data Processing Director Stanley France said “this county is absolutely interested in receiving broadband services.”

The survey found that 95 percent of the respondents had personal computers in their home, but only about 49 percent had potential access to high-speed Internet or connections.

Most of that was cable service in more densely populated centers.

About 38 percent of people using the Internet connect with a slow dial-up service. About 49 percent said they used home computers to access their work or office.

The highest response rate to the survey came from the town of Carlisle, where 176 people, or 23 percent of the community, answered questions. Countywide, the response rate to the survey distributed in June was 13.14 percent, according to France.

Preliminary survey results were posted on the county’s Web site ( Friday.

Carlisle Supervisor Larry Bradt said “numerous requests” by residents and the Town Board to get expanded cable services from Time Warner have been ignored.

In setting up a telecommunications task force headed by France and Seward Supervisor Larry Phillips last spring, county board Chairman Earl Van Wormer III said Friday he was hoping a variety of alternatives would surface.

“It was an attempt to find anybody out there that was providing a service,” Van Wormer said.

New Visions was the only company that approached the county, however, and supervisors have welcomed Branca’s proposals.

New Visions was awarded a $1.3 million state grant to develop the broadband over power line (BPL) system in western Onondaga County in March.

Branca said his system, already used in Solvay, near Syracuse, would be 30 times faster than DSL, a telephone line-based system, and 100 times faster than dial-up.

The BPL system uses utility power lines to transmit voice, data and video communications. Equipment installed near power pole transformers would link nearby subscribers to the service.

The system, which Branca said was approved by the Federal Communication Commission about three years ago, requires agreements with existing power companies to use their lines or utility poles.

In addition to home Internet and other services, Branca said his network could also improve communications between county government and emergency services, as well as provide closed circuit cameras to provide security or monitor roads.

Citing the history of roads and bridges, water and sewers in the economic development of the country, “the new infrastructure is high-speed broadband,” Branca said.

Although no firm subscription costs have been established, Branca said during his initial presentation to county officials in May that residential fees would typically be in the $30 to $60 per month range, depending on services provided.

Categories: Schenectady County

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