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Gloversville forum focuses on need for (broadband) speed

Gloversville forum focuses on need for (broadband) speed

Business leaders met at the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce in Gloversville on Thursd
Gloversville forum focuses on need for (broadband) speed
David Salway, director of the New York State Broadband Program Office, discusses the governor's New NY Broadband program with business leaders in Gloversville Thursday afternoon.
Photographer: Kyle Adams

At the Holiday Inn in Johnstown, General Manager Jim Landrio said the phones could be removed from rooms with few guests noticing the difference. The same goes for TVs.

“Guests come in and the mother has a tablet, the son will have a tablet and a phone, the father will have his laptop and his phone,” he said. “And all those people are trying to connect.”

For Landrio, good customer service no longer means AC and cable TV — it means high-speed Internet. The hotel has increased its capacity a handful of times in the past two years, from 5-megabits-per-second download speeds to 10, then 20, and most recently 40. The trend is clear — and expensive.

“Today we’re OK, tomorrow we’re still OK, but a month down the road, it’s just not enough,” he said. “You’re just constantly increasing.”

Landrio and other business leaders met at the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce in Gloversville on Thursday to hear about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New NY Broadband Program, which will offer $500 million in matching funds for Internet service providers willing to build infrastructure that can support broadband speeds of more than 100 Mbps in unserved and underserved areas, or 25 Mbps in particularly remote areas.

The program was officially announced in January as part of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda. It builds on the state’s $25 million Connect NY program of 2012, which offered grants aimed at building out the “last mile” of broadband infrastructure in areas where expansion often becomes economically impractical for service providers.

“We want to make sure [underserved areas] have adequate speeds for today and the future,” David Salway, director of the NYS Broadband Program Office, said at the meeting. “And that will mean upgrading networks in some cases. It will mean deploying new networks where those existing networks can’t provide the speeds we’re seeking under the program.”

Salway said the grants may favor established Internet service providers that already have the infrastructure in place, but the program is open to all comers.

“We want to bring everybody to the table to see, how can you do this at the lowest cost, providing high service and the speeds that were looking for?” he said. “And that means that everybody’s eligible. Everybody will be at the table to do that.”

Details of the program, he said, including funding amounts and mechanisms, will be made available after the budget is approved by the state Legislature.

In response to questions from some business representatives, Salway said the program will not be geared toward bringing broadband to specific businesses or homes, but more toward community coverage.

“We’re looking more at the big picture,” he said. “We want to make sure that it’s universally available, because those things change. Ownership changes.”

The program will be built on plans from the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils, which have been charged with identifying underserved areas, evaluating demand and recommending the most cost-effective delivery.

According to information from the governor’s office, 1 million New Yorkers and 4,000 businesses lack access to broadband speeds of 6 Mbps, the state’s former broadband standard, which the governor’s office now calls “already too slow.”

In Schoharie County, 29 percent of the population lacks access to Internet at that speed. In Montgomery County it’s 17 percent, Fulton 8 percent, Albany 6 percent, Schenectady 4 percent and Saratoga 3 percent.

Salway called high-speed broadband a “necessary business driver in the 21st century,” and Landrio and others at the meeting seemed to agree.

“This is a critical piece of infrastructure to stay in New York, to be able to sustain businesses,” he said. “But also [to bring in] businesses that will not come to New York unless we have adequate speeds.”

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