Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R, C, I – Schoharie) has been working with local telecommunications companies to broaden high-speed Internet access through the seven-county 127th Assembly District, which is comprised of mainly rural communities.
“One of the over-arching concerns voiced by our families and businesses is the lack of high-speed Internet access. It is of paramount importance that our farms, families, and small businesses have access to the Internet to be competitive in our global economy. Moreover, when deciding where to live and work, our families and businesses consider items like Internet access as key components in that process,” said the Assemblyman. “The lack of this capability in our rural areas acts as a significant disincentive for investment, preventing our rural and undersized areas from fully realizing their economic potential.”
To address this need, Assemblyman Lopez has partnered with local governments and companies, like ION, to provide residents with expanded and improved Internet access. The Assemblyman has been approaching the project as he has, over the years, in helping improve infrastructure and roadways throughout the district. He said, “Creating a sustainable economy hinges on the development of necessary infrastructure like Internet access, cable and cell phone coverage, which have become required parts of our modern day infrastructure equation. While we once revolved solely around transportation, as well as water and sewer improvements, more is required to support our homes and businesses in an increasingly high-tech environment.”
As the world was revolutionized years ago by the advent of electricity, Assemblyman Lopez believes now is the time to make smart investments to expand the Internet “superhighway” throughout the rural areas of the state. Citing the federal Rural Electrification Act as an example equation to help rural New York realize its full potential with Internet access.
One of the businesses Assemblyman Lopez has partnered with is ION and its Southern Tier East Fiber Backbone – 7 Community Network Project. Working with his office and other partners across the state, ION was successful in competing for federal broadband stimulus funds. Using the award money, ION will construct a fiber broadband network across a seven-county region, starting from ION’s Tompkins County location and ending at the ION network in Schoharie County.
These counties and the areas within them are vastly underserved, and the ION fiber network will provide affordable and reliable broadband access for the creation of new services in these rural areas. The route will be connected to and intends to serve SUNY campuses in Cobleskill, Morrisville, Oneonta and Cortland, as well as the other anchor governmental, educational and healthcare institutions such as Bassett Healthcare. This project will go through 14 towns and serve 86,493 people, representing 34,834 households and the 69 anchor institutions.
ION President Jim Becker commented, “We are excited to be bringing robust, redundant, and affordable broadband access to rural areas of need throughout the state, and really appreciate the partnership we have with Assemblyman Lopez and his counterparts. We have seen the economic impact these robust broadband pipes have in rural areas and their business climate firsthand, and we look forward to continuing to work with Assemblyman Lopez to affect change in his district.”
This was furthered by Jason Becker, General Manager of MIDTEL NET, one of Schoharie County’s premier Broadband providers and a principal owner of ION, “We are fortunate to have such great partners in the move to eliminate the digital broadband divide that exists in rural America. It takes partnerships in both the private and public sectors to produce sustainable change. With the efforts that Assemblyman Lopez continues to work for, we are excited for the future of Broadband in Schoharie County and other underserved regions of New York State.”
Bruce Bohnsack, CEO of Gtel, Inc. (formerly Germantown Telephone) – a provider of broadband-based Internet, communications and entertainment services in Southern Columbia County – and also a principal owner of ION, mirrored Jason’s observations. He stated, “It is only through strategic partnerships with other local telephone companies throughout the state that access to the amount of Internet bandwidth demanded by our fiber-to-the-home customer base is possible. In our rural network, voice, video and data services all require an ever-increasing amount of bandwidth that is only possible and affordable through our investment and partnership in ION. It’s a wonderful example of established New York-based companies investing in and building out New York’s fiber-based broadband infrastructure.”
Assemblyman Lopez said, “ION’s vision and leadership will make all the difference for our neighbors in their service area. I commend ION for its efforts, and look forward to a continued partnership that brings high-speed Internet access to the people of New York.”