A forum on the state of rural broadband access, and what can be done to improve it, was hosted Wednesday by Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook.
The symposium was held at SUNY Cobleskill in the Bouck Auditorium and featured representatives from the state government, federal government and industry. It is the fourth such forum Gibson has organized.
The forum was divided into presentations from federal officials, presentations from state officials and presentations from industry representatives. Questions from the audience were asked and answered throughout the presentations.
Each of the presenters talked about the efforts underway to increase access to broadband in rural areas, as well as the programs available to further this goal. Many, although not all, of the efforts and programs discussed involved government grants and loans available to telecommunications companies and local governments for expanding broadband access.
The symposium focused on Delaware, Schoharie, Chenango and Otsego counties and representatives from county governments were among those in the symposium’s audience.
Before these presentations began, Gibson, state Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) and Assemblyman Peter Lopez (R-Schoharie) gave short speeches. A representative for Assemblyman Clifford Crouch (R-Guilford) was also there.
Seward said: “Reliable, affordable, high speed broadband is critically important to us all on a number of fronts.”
Lopez favorably compared efforts to bring broadband to rural areas to the Rural Electrification Act.
“I’m a capitalist, I’m a conservative, I believe in our businesses,” Lopez said, “but there’s some instances where we recognize that the market itself can only deliver so much.”
Rob O’Hara, the Rural Utilities Service Telecom Program’s General Field Representative responsible for implementing and tracking all RUS funded loan and grant programs in Northern New York and New England, was one of the presenters from the federal government. He detailed the grants and loans available for broadband on the federal level.