Broadband: Flipping the switch in the North Country

TUPPER LAKE – The Wild Center will be the hub of planned celebrations marking the arrival of new broadband to Tupper Lake and the North Country on Monday. The event will feature many of the leaders and stakeholders in the broadband effort, including David Salway, Director of New York State’s Broadband Program Office, who will moderate a panel on the potential economic impacts of broadband on the region.

James Wright, executive director of the Development Authority of the North Country, and Mark Dzwonczyk, CEO of Nicholville Telephone Company, whose subsidiary, Slic Network Solutions, is deploying broadband Internet access to residences and businesses throughout Northern New York, will also be sharing remarks at the celebration and available for questions.

The event will be co-hosted by The Wild Center and Clarkson University, which has supported the Forever Wired initiative to bring full broadband and related services to the region. Celebrations begin at 10 a.m. at the Center’s Flammer Theater in Tupper Lake. The public is invited to attend.

The panel on the economic impacts and other presentations about broadband opportunity will be followed by an informal chance to ask questions and meet with the broadband delivery company for the region. The moderated panel will include individuals whose businesses are already being significantly enhanced with the arrival of broadband. From integrated medical care to telecommuting and distance learning, broadband in the North Country removes many barriers that reduced the capacity of area organizations and businesses to work on a level playing field with competitors who had high speed broadband. Residents of the North Country will be able to telecommute, attend and broadcast online education programs, use broadband for medical diagnosis services and develop internet-based businesses. The Wild Center recently tested the new broadband system, reported to be among the fastest in the world, to conduct a face-to-face class with students 500 miles away.

“It’s a game-changer,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe, The Wild Center’s executive director.

This new, high-capacity fiber-optic network runs through the Adirondacks, including the Tri-Lakes. The Development Authority of the North Country, a Watertown-based public benefit corporation, is building a network from Gouverneur east across the Adirondacks to Westport, crossing the Tri-Lakes area. A loop in the Tupper Lake area will connect major sites in the community including The Wild Center, Tupper Lake schools, the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library and the Adirondack Public Observatory. Some of the network equipment is housed in The Wild Center basement.

“This gives us our own on-ramp and lane on the information superhighway,” said Ratcliffe. “A broadband superhighway allows us to connect and work directly with schools and other institutions around the world and make it seem like we’re in the same room. The potential for collaborations with programs and education is endless.”

DANC is working on three projects in the North Country, involving 350 miles of construction connecting 94 “community anchor” institutions. The first project finished in 2011, connecting the Watertown area to Utica. The third project links Potsdam, Malone and Plattsburgh. DANC builds the highway and enters into agreements with existing telecommunications providers, like Slic Network Solutions, Frontier Communications, Westelcom, Primelink, KVVI and others, to build the last mile network.