The $2,162,656 million grant from New York State to Schroon to ensure everyone has access to broadband, will be a huge boost to the local economy, revolutionize the lives of many people, as well as firmly cement Schroon’s future growth.
That’s the opinion of Broadband Committee member Joe Steiniger and Councilman Roger Friedman, who are intimately familiar with Schroon’s efforts to land the grant.
The grant also includes a free wi-fi hot spot at the Town Beach.
“I was elated when I heard the news,” Steiniger told us.
“It's transformative for the community. From an economic stand point the future of the Adirondack Park hinges on broadband availability.”
Friedman was still a little stunned when we caught up with him.
“When you compare our grant to the entire state of New York, and the pot being 25 million, holy mackerel, it's unbelievable,” he said.
The grant will provide high-speed low cost broadband to 457 homes in the areas of Charley Hill, Hoffman and Paradox. Under the grant each of the homes will have fiber optic cable supplied from an outside power pole directly to the home.
Steiniger said Schroon’s Broadband Committee was expecting only a portion of the grant.
“We were crossing our fingers. We were hoping we would get half and that we would have to go back. We were already plotting who is going to get it first: the south end of town or the north end of town and how are we going to make that decision?
“If you look at the Governor’s announcement we got the largest grant of any municipality. The only other larger grant was for nine municipalities who lumped their grant money together”.
Schroon’s Broadband Committee responsible for helping land the grant was formed about a year ago. Under the chairmanship of Don Sage, members Meg Wood, Fran Filshie, Bob Claus, Mark Granger and Steiniger investigated the options to get Schroon’s un-serviced areas wired. (Homes and business now with broadband have their access supplied by Time Warner Cable.)
The committee ultimately endorsed a proposal submitted by Potsdam based Slic Network Solutions President and CEO Phil Wagschal.
“Don did a super job of investigating potential solutions and arranging meetings with the financial and technology vendors who wanted to be part of the proposed program,” Steiniger said.
“He realized how important this was and treated it as if it was the most important task on his calendar until he got it done”.
Steiniger says there are two key reasons why the proposal was successful.
“The most important thing was to hook up with Slic, who were known to the State Economic Development Committee and had a wonderful reputation. They knew and trusted Slic as they are working with them in other upstate communities.”
“And we had wide community support with a strong letter writing campaign to the State Economic Development Committee from folks about how transformative it was going to be for them, and how important it was going to be in their lives.
“Between the community support that was shown and the expertise of the partner we partnered with, that was what made it happen”
So just how does Schroon benefit economically from the grant? It’s all about the broadband literally keeping Schroon Lakers connected to Schroon.
“If you look at Schroon Lake, or Lake George for example, two thirds of the homes are vacation and weekend homes.
“If people living in those homes are able to spend one extra day per week telecommuting with their office networks, because they now have a fiber optic connection, which they didn't have before, that's going to have a dramatic impact on the local economy. One extra day per week is a 20 per cent increase on the money that's going to be spent in those communities.
"Because its an extra day where people will be in town, shopping at the Grand Union, going out to dinner, going to the movies or buying a quart of milk at Stewart's it's going to be dramatic.
"The community here is so small that the scale of this thing is that you are adding hundreds and hundreds of days where people stay here.”
There's also the added benefit of full time residents being able to telecommute on a regular basis.
For many folks, their lives will be revolutionized. Steiniger said getting the new service is not just about Facebook and email. Users can now have access to their medical records, financial information, and be a huge benefit kids with their homework.
A former Broadband Committee was successful several years ago in getting Time Warner Cable to commit to three extensions to their original system, which serviced downtown Schroon and parts of US Route 9. The extensions went north to French Road, Bay Road south of the village, (down by Mountainside) and the entire East Shore from the county line up to Nesa Road, recalled Roger Friedman.
“That (East Shore) was a big one 3.5 miles. With Time Warner we had to show we had 20 homes per linear mile.”
The Broadband Committee will meet over the next few weeks to discuss a timetable. We will have a follow up report about what the potential costs and options will be for the new services.
So tell us what do you think about this multi-million dollar grant? We want to hear your thoughts in comments.