Broadband connection celebrated

TUPPER LAKE – Local broadband advocates joined together Monday morning to celebrate several Tupper Lake institutions’ new broadband connections being switched on.

The Wild Center natural history museum is the hub of the new broadband connection, with the equipment for the connection stored in a 300-square-foot area in the museum’s basement.

The fiber-optic network will also connect to both of Tupper Lake’s schools, the Adirondack Public Observatory, the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library and the Tupper Lake Civic Center. The civic center’s connection is also being used to project a new wireless network to the area of the nearby Tupper Lake Municipal Park.

A number of the speakers at Monday’s celebration noted that the new broadband network was the result of various elements of the community coming together for one purpose.

Jim Wright, executive director of the Development Authority of the North Country, explained how it came about.

His public benefit company runs a ring of fiber-optic broadband service through Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. He said state Sen. Betty Little, Tupper Lake Mayor and county Legislator Paul Maroun, and Jim Ellis, a prominent Tupper Lake republican and Adirondack North Country Association affiliate, met with DANC officials about how to get the area wired. There were plans several years ago to build out broadband networks in other parts of the Adirondacks, but plans for the Tupper Lake area had so far been unsuccessful.

In July 2010, the Franklin County Board of Legislators passed a resolution asking DANC to build its network into its towns, from the bordering counties the company already operated in.

Through a variety of state, federal and private funds, DANC partnered with Slic Network Solutions and several other organizations to build the network of fiber-optic broadband connections. That project is now nearing completion, Wright said.

“We will be under budget and on time,” Wright said.

DANC is a “middle-mile” network, bringing broadband to main local institutions and allowing other companies like Slic to connect to it and extend it the “last mile” to residential customers. This new network isn’t available to residential users yet, but there are plans in the works for Slic to provide it, said Mark Dzwonczyk, CEO of Nicholville Telephone Company, which is the parent company of Slic.

Time Warner Cable already offers a different broadband network to its Tupper Lake customers.

Wild Center Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe said the new connection is meaningful to her museum, since its mission is to connect people to the Adirondacks, and broadband will help her staff connect with people beyond the Blue Line. She said people in 200 countries around the world have viewed the museum’s website in the past month, and she sees more opportunities like that opening up in the future.

She said her interpreters have been gearing up for the last year, brainstorming ways to use the new broadband and playing with distance-learning options.

Ratcliffe noted that infrastructure improvements often go unseen, and people just start using them without making a big fuss. Therefore, she said, it’s nice to take a moment and celebrate the significant improvement.

Several other speakers, including a panel discussion, talked about the benefits of quick Internet and the continuing efforts to connect more residents in the North Country.

Several members of the panel talked about teleworking and how it could be an economic boon to the area. AdkAction’s Dave Wolff said nearly half of the real estate in the Adirondack Park is owned by people who live outside the Park, so the area could see a huge economic impact if those people are encouraged to stay at their vacation houses longer each season.

Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or