A broadband symposium organized by an upstate New York Congressman brought concerned residents and community leaders together with experts from state and federal government to discuss expanding high-speed internet in rural towns.
Congressman Chris Gibson, a Republican from New York’s 19th Congressional district, organized the event Thursday at SUNY Cobleskill in rural Schoharie County. Gibson said he considers bringing high-speed internet to the rural towns in his district a priority.
"We're passionate about expanding broadband because we know that it is directly related to job creation, to healthcare delivery and quality of healthcare, for education, and for quality of life," said Gibson.
Government experts made presentations on available public broadband initiatives, with a focus on community planning for broadband. Telecommunications industry representatives were also on hand to talk about the potential and challenges for expanding broadband in small towns. State lawmakers also attended.
Jennifer Gregory, Assistant Director of the Southern Tier East Regional Planning Development Board, explored the importance of community planning and cooperation among rural communities, and how a multitude of organizations were able to work together to tackle existing issues to secure funding to expand broadband in her region.
"We brought together the hospitals, the healthcare institutions, the universities...the middle schools, the elementary schools, anyone who needs that service," said Gregory.
Supervisor of the Schoarie County town of Jefferson, Dan Singleterry, also attended the meeting.
"We need to have broadband, we need to have our merchandise out there, we need to hook up with the people in other metropolitan areas, and it really forms a nice relationship when we do that," said Singleterry.
At the event, Singleterry said local phone company, the Middleburgh Telephone Company, is unable to expand broadband service to Jefferson over the 518-607 area code line due to regulations.
Jason Becker, General Manager of the Middleburgh Telephone Company, said he appreciated the symposium’s ability to connect him with Singleterry, his state and federal lawmakers, and other experts to begin the work find solutions to issues, obtain funding, and expand service.
The symposium was the third of its kind hosted by Gibson in his district, along with several smaller meetings all focused on expanding broadband in rural communities.