DANC Completes Jefferson County Broadband Study, Finds Rural Areas Need More Supplier Choice | Jefferson County


WATERTOWN – Jefferson County officials now have a better idea of ​​what broadband access looks like in their districts.

On Tuesday, the Development Authority of the North Country presented the results of the Jefferson County Broadband Study to the General Services Committee of the Council of Legislators. The study, conducted over three months starting in January, joins DANC’s studies in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties over a similar period.

In Jefferson County, the study had two parts: a survey of anyone who leases or owns property in the county, and an inventory of existing infrastructure conducted by DANC staff.

Overall, 1,439 people responded to the survey, of which 94.5% were owners or tenants of residential buildings.

“We haven’t heard from a lot of companies,” said Laurie A. Marr, DANC’s director of public affairs and communications, as she presented the briefing.

For residential and business respondents, 21% said they had no broadband internet access, only DSL or dial-up access, and an additional 14% said they only had access by satellite or cellular hotspot. This represents 35% of those polled indicating that they do not have access to broadband internet.

A majority of the county, 50.1%, reported having wired internet access, by far the most common form of broadband and broadband internet access. Only 3.1% said they had access via fiber optic cable, the fastest home internet solution available.

Wireless internet, provided through large antenna stations that transmit signals directly to special dish-shaped antennas for customers, was available for 11.9% of those who responded to the survey, while 8.2% of people reported using cellular internet at home.

In total, 6.2% of people said they did not have access to the internet at home, let alone broadband.

Of the 67 respondents who said they had no internet at all, 73% said it was because there was no provider available and 22% said their options were too expensive. Most of these respondents, 65%, said the lack of internet at home caused them problems with work, and 59% said it was a problem with homework.

Most without the internet said they would be willing to pay between $ 25 and $ 50 per month for the internet, and 85% said having a choice between providers is important or very important.

Survey respondents were also asked to comment on their opinion of their services, if applicable. According to DANC’s presentation, the most common complaint was high prices, followed by lack of choice.

Jefferson County is served by a number of cable and television Internet providers, but their coverage areas rarely overlap. By far the most common supplier is Charter Spectrum. Frontier Communications, TDS Telecom, and Verizon Communications cover much of the county’s rural areas with Internet or phone service. Citizens of Hammond, a family-owned cable company based in St. Lawrence County, and its subsidiary Castle Cable provide Internet, phone and TV service to a small portion of the towns of Theresa and Alexandria.

DANC officials said they found Jefferson County to be generally well served by broadband service providers, but the rural towns of Worth, Rodman and Lorraine, as well as parts of Rutland, Champion and Alexandria need more work.

While many roads across the county have broadband service based on coaxial cables, there are significant gaps in service that leave some areas without access while other neighboring areas have sufficient access.

DANC officials have said that many of these underserved areas will likely be addressed by the New NY Broadband Program or the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, but these grants have six-year implementation periods which officials say. the DANC, could be too long.

With these and other grants underway, DANC officials said, many residential customers in the county currently have or soon will have a choice of providers and technologies in their homes, typically a choice between coaxial-based service. Spectrum or another fiber optic company. optical service.

DANC officials have suggested that Jefferson County work in partnership with local suppliers to make the necessary improvements, especially to create a program to incent businesses to develop underserved areas of the county. They stressed that, based on the comments, securing a second ISP to cover areas that are now covered by a single company should be a priority.

“The county could play a leadership role and share the costs with public, private and subsidy sources of funding,” David M. Wolf, director of DANC’s telecommunications division, told the committee on Tuesday. “The information developed in this study will serve as a rationale for seeking the necessary grant funds.”

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