Beyond bears and birds: The dilemma of rural broadband

Aug 20, 2010

Yesterday our Binghamton division made a trip to East Meredith, population 1,100. A lot of it looks like what you see above. It’s not the big city.

Talking with town Supervisor Keitha Capouya about major employers, she said that a lot of people worked in agriculture, some people worked in larger, nearby Oneonta, and more and more people were working from their homes.

Capouya herself performs a lot of her administrative duties from her own very rural home (she’s had a bear on her front porch gnawing on her birdfeeder).

In many rural or semi-rural areas of Upstate New York access to high-speed internet is creating new work patterns for people who may have otherwise had a difficult commute. However, many areas are still waiting to get up to speed.

Rebekah LaMoreaux, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Watkins Glen (population 2,149) says that in her rural county, many businesses would like to be able to market themselves better and differently with better internet connections. She herself has trouble working from home. Meanwhile, low-density Delaware County offers prime vacation spots, but in the heart of B&B country, internet access is a higher and higher priority. Working visitors often need to clock in during vacation.

The New York Times has more on how small-town residents from Alaska to Kansas are looking for expanded connectivity to help do business from their region. Our editor Rachel Ward had a conversation earlier this year on how federal investment in broadband infrastructure might affect the Rochester area. And this week we have a story about how larger employers in the town of Hornell stretch to get the infrastructure they need and how stimulus funding may arrive to expand choices for our region. Stay tuned.