November 9, 2020
In an effort to improve broadband access in Lewis County, county residents and businesses are asked to participate in a survey to help determine the needs and opportunities for broadband in the county. Lewis County and the Development Authority of the North Country have partnered on a project designed to position the county to take advantage of opportunities that require critical broadband access and infrastructure.
Working with a contractor, ECC Technologies, the broadband campaign is a two-pronged effort. Contractors have already begun on-the-ground work to inventory and map broadband facilities in the county, including existing fiber and coaxial cabling and tower sites. The second part of the campaign is a survey of county residents and businesses to determine who has access to broadband and what people are paying or are willing to pay.
“It’s absolutely critical for every resident and business in Lewis County to complete a survey,” said Lewis County Manager Ryan Piche. “That is the only way we will be able to accurately map broadband availability in our county. We have lots of anecdotal evidence, but we need hard data in order to obtain the funding and support we need to correct this problem, which hits rural areas like ours particularly hard.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the rural North Country an attractive target for urban dwellers who seek more open spaces in which to live and work. With its abundance of natural resources, the North County is positioned to take advantage of an outflow of urbanites, but must be able to provide the broadband infrastructure that teleworkers need in order to work remotely.
“We know our county lags behind others in the state in terms of our broadband infrastructure,” Piche said. “And now is the time for us to put the infrastructure in place to take advantage of those people seeking a more rural lifestyle who need to telecommute to their jobs.”
The number of schoolchildren forced into virtual learning by the pandemic also magnified the need for broadband improvements, with several school districts reporting children who had difficulty obtaining access to online instruction. More people are turning to “virtual” doctor visits and broadband enhancements are needed to improve telemedicine opportunities. The agriculture industry is also relying on electronic capabilities to help run equipment and allow them to tap into new technologies.
“The Development Authority is committed to expanding access to broadband in the North Country,” said Development Authority Executive Director Carl Farone, Jr. “But we need hard data like that which will be generated through this project to help us decide where to best invest our limited capital to help the most unserved and under-served areas.”
The broadband survey is tailored to ask questions pertinent to homes and businesses both with and without access to broadband. Respondents will need to enter an address and indicate whether it is for a home or business and will proceed to a survey designed to collect information on the demand for services unique to their location. The address is an important piece of information because it will help identify where the greatest needs are in the county, but it will not be released to any third party. Aggregated results will be available at the conclusion of the project.
You can take the survey from any computer or mobile device at this link: www.lewiscountybroadband.com. If you do not have internet access, public access to a computer may be available at your local library; contact them first, to check on current hours and restrictions.
Results of this project will create data that will be used to pursue grant funding to help improve broadband access in unserved and underserved areas of Lewis County. For more information, contact the Lewis County Planning Department at 315-376-5422.