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ISP to Connect Parts of Washington County, N.Y., by 2021

The Broadband For All program allotted $24.5 million to Washington County to invest in increased access to broadband service. Much of the work has already been done but has been slowed by the pandemic.

by Gretta Hochsprung, The Post-Star / October 19, 2020
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(TNS) — SLIC Network Solutions hopes to deliver broadband Internet services to some areas of Washington County by the end of the year, a representative told Washington County supervisors Friday.

Kevin Lynch  addressed the supervisors during their virtual monthly meeting Friday morning to update the board members on the build-out process to bring Internet to the rural parts of the county.

The Broadband For All program allotted $24.5 million to Washington County to invest in increased access to broadband service. Four providers that submitted bids were selected by the state to receive funding to increase access to broadband service in the county: Hudson Valley Wireless, Verizon and Hughes Network Systems and SLIC Network Solutions.

Lynch said SLIC Network Solutions was awarded the grant in February 2018, but the distribution agreement wasn't signed until March 2019.

"It took quite a while from the time that the grants were announced and we actually had awards that we could take action on," Lynch said.

Much of the work has already been done but has been slowed by the pandemic. The problem, which existed before the coronavirus pandemic, has also been exacerbated as students school remotely from home.

Lynch admitted the process has taken a long time.

SLIC uses existing poles to run the fiber optics. The company needs permission from National Grid or NYSEG to attach to their poles, and are also required to use the power companies' contractors. It takes 90 days from the time of application to get access to the pole, Lynch said.

"However, because of the large amount of broadband activity across the state, as well as, I think some of you are aware, the charter mandate to build out to several hundred thousand additional homes, put a lot of stress on the system," he told supervisors. "So even though we applied as early as March 2019 for these poles, we have a few applications that are still yet to be finalized."

Every pole has to be photographed and engineered. Washington County has more than 20,000 poles, which are inspected in batches of 125. The company is replacing at least 500 of those poles and doing other work like moving transformers and feeder lines to homes. Poles can cost from $6,000-$12,000 to replace.

"So it's a pretty involved process," Lynch explained.

Once those poles are "made ready," it is safe to attach the fiber optics.

"Our goal is to have all this project done by the end of the year," Lynch said. "And we are pushing hard to do that."

Construction is presently going on in the town of Putnam and down to Dresden, as well as in Hampton and Hartford. This coming week, construction will be going on in the towns of JacksonEaston and Hebron. Fiber is being buried along County Route 18 in Whitehall; and in the towns of Easton and Jackson.

"The electrical infrastructure is quite old in parts of the county, which means the poles tend to be shorter and further apart, which does add some challenges," Lynch said.

Once completed, the base service will start at $60 a month, with discounts available for families who receive free or reduced lunch, senior citizens and people on Social Security Disability.

"We do realize how incredibly important broadband is, and so we're trying to get it out to everyone," Lynch said. "And if there are areas where we're not covering or we can partner with other companies or we can do creative solutions, we are very open to that."

This news came as a relief to supervisors, who have been lobbying state officials for months to try to improve broadband access in the county.

Salem Supervisor  Evera Sue Clary  said there are currently 168 Salem students who do not have Internet access.

"The southern part of the county has dramatic needs," Clary said.

©2020 The Post Star, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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