Articles

U.S. Rep. Talks Importance of Broadband With Local New York Officials

For U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, broadband is an economic development, jobs and agricultural issue.

by Brian Molongoski, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. / August 4, 2017
U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro and local officials participate in a roundtable discussion about broadband. Twitter/RepStefanik

(TNS) -- WATERTOWN — U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, joined local officials in a roundtable discussion at the Dulles State Office Building Aug. 3 to talk about the state of broadband internet in the north country.

“Broadband is an economic development issue, it’s a jobs issue, it’s an agricultural issue in this district, and it really is important to make sure the north country is connected to the 21st century economy,” Ms. Stefanik said. “It’s something that small businesses want, what students want.”

During the discussion, Robert Durantini, director of network facilities for the Development Authority of the North Country, spoke at length about DANC’s efforts to spur broadband implementation across the region.

DANC has constructed an extensive telecommunications network over the last several years throughout Northern and Central New York, laying more than 1,300 miles of fiber optic cable to connect municipalities to the internet. Central offices in each of these municipalities power the network.

Mr. Durantini said local internet services, including Westelcom, can connect to DANC’s fiber optic network, and he encouraged additional municipalities to work with DANC to build new central offices.

Additionally, Mr. Durantini said wireless internet use in the north country is increasing, and existing radio antennas can be fitted to provide wireless service.

Jefferson County Legislator Jeremiah J. Maxon said Jefferson County will consider selling space for wireless internet connectivity on a new series of radio towers being built to power the county’s upgraded emergency communications system, which is scheduled to go online next year.

Ms. Stefanik has also made efforts of her own since her election.

Westelcom, a major internet provider, needs a rural area designation by the Federal Communications Commission to receive the federal funding needed to stay in business, and she has worked with U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand to reverse the FCC’s urban designation for the Watertown area.

She also introduced the Precision Farming Act of 2016, which offers financial incentives for broadband providers and farms. Service providers would receive a one-time $15,000 reimbursement for each line installed for a qualifying precision farming operation.

Speaking on other topics prior to the roundtable, Ms. Stefanik said she has not decided whether she would support U.S. Rep. Christopher C. Collins’s bill that would void components of the state’s SAFE Act. If enacted, the bill would remove SAFE Act restrictions on semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. The bill, however, does not address handgun restrictions. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has threatened to sue the federal government if it gets signed into law.

Ms. Stefanik, who is against the SAFE Act, said she will review the bill before making a decision in September.

“At first glance, I would support it, but I want to take the time to read the technical bill and the language,” she said.

On health care reform, Ms. Stefanik said she was disappointed the Senate GOP’s healthcare bill was voted down last month but is looking forward to a more bipartisan effort to fix the Affordable Care Act when lawmakers return to Washington, D.C. in September.

“In September you’re going to start seeing a coalition come together to go in a bipartisan direction because Democrats understand that this law is not working, that it’s collapsing on itself, and I just think we need to move the process forward,” she said.

©2017 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.