Friday, August 28, 2009

Otsego County, New York, Hopes for Fiber Optic Loop With Wireless Outreach

Yes! This is exactly what the Obama-Biden plan had in mind: Last week we learned that Otsego County has applied for about $5.89 million in federal stimulus money to build a fiber optic loop around the county, according to The Daily Star.

Carolyn Lewis, the county's economic developer, said she believes "the loop will help bring prosperity to the countryside as firms, large and small, and residents, even on back roads, are able to operate smoothly on the Internet." Citizens of the county are strongly supportive of the project and prepared to pitch in to make it work to everyone's advantage.

(Surprisingly, even in Otsego County, a rural New York county that voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential election, some people don't realize that the "Obama-Biden Plan" placed a priority on rural broadband way before the stimulus package. In fact, it was in the works even before the presidential debates last Fall--attentive viewers will have noted that Obama spoke of the need to bring true broadband service to rural communities during the first debate.)

Support for this project today is bipartisan and pretty much across the board, from schools to hospitals, from companies and colleges to farms and families. According to Lewis, when it is built, the fiber loop would be available to colleges, hospitals, businesses and telecommunications service providers, which would be encouraged to reach the county's most remote areas with wireless devices that tie into the loop. This raises the exciting prospect of farm-wide wireless broadband service, a huge boon to farmers in this important dairy-producing region (New York is America's third largest producer of dairy products).

The county-owned network would be operated by a limited development corporation, a not-for-profit agency made up of members selected by the Otsego County Board of Representatives, according to a memorandum from ECC Technologies of Liverpool, the county's consultant on the project. Within six weeks, the county should have a preliminary indication of how its application was received. An official announcement is scheduled for November 7.

If it goes forward, the project is likely to be a big hit with local residents who for years have been exasperated by costly and unreliable satellite service while unable to get companies like Verizon, AT&T or Time Warner Cable to supply them with affordable Internet connectivity. Many thanks are due to Lewis and the county workers who helped complete the very demanding application, including Marybeth Vargha, the county's GIS coordinator, and County board Chairman James Power.

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