Copake joins initiative for broadband access

COPAKE—The Town Board agreed to form its own Broadband Committee to ensure that “affordable, reliable and truly high speed broadband reaches every household and business in town.” It joins several other towns around Columbia County that have formed similar bodies in what the state calls one of the two counties statewide with the least access to broadband internet service.

Copake resident Deborah Cohen came before the Town Board at its November 10 meeting to propose that the town establish a Broadband Committee at the local level to help facilitate the installation of broadband here in connection with Governor Cuomo’s statewide broadband initiative that the governor announced last summer at en event in Hudson.

She volunteered to serve on the town committee, which will work along with Mr. Cuomo’s NY Broadband Team, the Connect Columbia committee and the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) to implement the governor’s broadband access plan. The initiative identifies Columbia County as the governor’s number one priority when it comes to delivering broadband internet access.

Connect Columbia is a countywide community action network that recommends the establishment of local municipal committees. The Columbia County Board of Supervisors, meantime, has delegated the task of ensuring broadband access to the CEDC, Ms. Cohen said in a follow-up phone interview this week.

The creation of a Copake Broadband Committee is in keeping with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which calls for the development of competitive high speed internet, stating: “An excellent telecommunications infrastructure will be critical to establishing Copake as a competitive business location. In addition to high speed infrastructure for email and entertainment, the community needs to plan for other forms of e-commerce as well as advanced services such as distance learning and telemedicine.”

The Copake Broadband Committee’s purpose “will be to collect all relevant data regarding all forms of telecommunications in our town. This should include cable franchise agreements, ‘as built’ maps of all installations, internet service providers both wired and unwired, telephone companies, and utility companies that own and/or control utility pole real estate.”

Underserved or poorly-served areas of town should be especially designated, according to the Copake Broadband Committee mission statement provided by Ms. Cohen.

Councilmember Jeanne Mettler said she supports formation of the committee because it is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and the issue of internet access has been a concern of the Hamlet Revitalization Task Force in light of the trend to work from home and commute to work less often.

Councilmember Stanley “Stosh” Gansowski asked Ms. Cohen if she knew how much grant money is available to the town for the “building of anything additional.”

The burden of building internet-related structures should not fall to the town, said Ms. Cohen, adding, “the legislature has made millions and millions of dollars available to providers to implement the initiative.”

Town Supervisor Jeff Nayer noted that a couple of providers have promised to be online with broadband by 2017 or 2018. “It’s coming, but if it comes to the exact places we want it” is another matter,” said the supervisor.

Ms. Cohen said the many businesses do not come to Columbia County because of the lack of broadband. “Copake will benefit,” she said.

The local Broadband Committee will serve as a liaison between the town, county, state and community members for the sharing of important and relevant information as well as the Town Board when negotiating franchise agreements and lobbying state and federal agencies for grant opportunities.

Three to seven members will serve on the committee and members should have an interest in the committee’s mission and a basic knowledge and experience in broadband technology, according to the mission statement.

By phone, Ms. Cohen, who has worked in IT (information technology) for years, said the committee would also serve as an official voice for townspeople who find they have been passed over in the broadband build-out process.

She said she became aware of the governor’s initiative and learned about the Connect Columbia committee through Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th) and joined that committee.

Ms. Cohen likens the difference between Broadband, or true high speed internet service, with its 150 megabits/second speed compared to the 5 megabits/second available here at the same price to a horse and buggy versus a Lamborghini.

The Town Board voted unanimously to form the Broadband Committee and is currently seeking members to serve on it.

Information and job descriptions can be obtained from the supervisor at 518 329-1234 X 1. Letters/resumes must be received by the Town Clerk by 2 p.m., December 8 at Town Hall, 230 Mountain View Road.

To contact Diane Valden email

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