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Still stuck in digital slow lane


COPAKE—Even when broadband gets here, it may still not get to you.

A Roe Jan Valley Broadband Forum was presented by the Ancram, Austerlitz, Copake and Hillsdale broadband committees at the Copake Town Hall Saturday morning, February 24. About 60 people showed up to find out if and when broadband is coming to their homes or businesses.

The answer was not simple.

Hillsdale Broadband Committee member Tod Wohlfarth addresses the crowd at the recent Roe Jan Valley Broadband Forum at Copake Town Hall. Photo contributed

Gallatin Town Supervisor John C. Reilly, who heads the Columbia County Board of Supervisors’ Broadband Subcommittee told the crowd we are in the third phase of broadband funding.

The process started because there is no service here. Columbia County is “two hours north of Manhattan and it has worse broadband than the most rural farm in Kansas,” said Mr. Reilly.

Since Columbia County does not have the population density to attract providers and make it profitable for them to supply broadband everywhere, the government figured out “the best way to get broadband here is to give private companies money—a competitive reason, an incentive to bring fiber to you,” he said.

According to the Federal Communications Commission website ( “The term broadband commonly refers to high-speed internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access. Broadband includes several high-speed transmission technologies such as: Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), Cable Modem, Fiber, Wireless, Satellite, Broadband over Powerlines (BPL).

The broadband technology you choose will depend on a number of factors. These may include whether you are located in an urban or rural area, how broadband internet access is packaged with other services (such as voice telephone and home entertainment), price, and availability.”

Providers who are already supplying some form of internet, television or telephone service here are the ones who have been awarded territories or census blocks where they can provide broadband, said Mr. Reilly, but there are still holes, overlap and confusion.

Lawyers and government agencies are involved, FairPoint and Spectrum are in mergers.”

He said the situation demands “patience, perseverance and clarity” to conquer.

We’ve called every provider” to invite them to come to this forum, but “they don’t come,” he said. “They will not talk if they don’t have to talk. They fear the competition. They are worried their competitor will get their paraphernalia up before them. They leave it up to you to contact them directly.”

Charter has rebranded itself as Spectrum, but Mr. Reilly said that when Spectrum “got to the poles they found rats’ nests—bad equipment that they have to rip out. So they’re taking out the old stuff but they’re running late. They have already paid the state a $1-million fine, saying ‘we need more time.’”

GTel and Mid-Hudson Cablevision are local companies and they are ahead of the game, Mr. Reilly said. “They were here, they didn’t inherit something they have to fix.” All providers are supposed to have their main trunks in this year and by 2019 be hooking up houses and streets.

People have to call their providers. Because Columbia County was the squeakiest wheel, $75 million has been devoted to the county to pay providers 95 cents on the dollar to install fiber. “They would never go there otherwise,” he said.

Dave Berman from Connect Columbia, who also serves on the county broadband subcommittee, said in order to get the state Public Service Commission to agree to its latest merger, Charter promised to upgrade the whole state except Columbia County. “But the state told them, they must upgrade all legacy systems in Columbia County.”

A task that must be completed by November of this year. If they do not, they have stipulated to pay a fine of $100,000 per occurrence and each day is a separate occurrence, Mr. Berman said, adding, “Corning can’t make the fiber fast enough.”

The people at FairPoint are trying very hard to get into the 20th century,” said Mr. Berman, “hopefully the 21st is not far behind.”

FairPoint has been purchased by a company called Consolidated Communications.

Representatives from town broadband committees gave updates on what they know about broadband progress in their towns. Many displayed maps showing what provider will supply broadband services to what location. Some areas have no provider.

Mr. Reilly noted that not all the areas awarded to one provider are adjoining, therefore, some have “built tunnels” connecting their areas. “There’s no rule that they can’t branch off and provide service along the way,” he said.

Everyone who spoke urged residents to find out who their provider is by checking maps that are available on the Columbia County website and may be available on a provider’s site with an address look-up tool. Spectrum/Charter has a look-up tool, but FairPoint/Consolidated does not, so email addresses for Bill Mulrein and Andy McAdoo, two people who could be helpful at FairPoint, were given: and

Once residents know who their provider is, they should contact them by phone, email or letter to find out when and if they will provide them with broadband service.

Hillsdale Supervisor Peter Cipkowski said he contacted his provider and was told they would not be running fiber to his house, although they would be running it to the house across the street.

To contact Diane Valden email

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