Bright skies for broadband

Posted 8/9/22

NARROWSBURG, NY — Sullivan County’s broadband project may get a major boost from a proposed public-private partnership.

That was the major news from Sullivan County Broadband LDC …

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Bright skies for broadband


NARROWSBURG, NY — Sullivan County’s broadband project may get a major boost from a proposed public-private partnership.

That was the major news from Sullivan County Broadband LDC chairman Mike Brooks, who appeared before the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) on August 4 to update that body on the LDC’s progress.

A private company had approached the LDC looking to create a public-private partnership for internet service, said Brooks. The company currently operates in 29 states and internationally, and seeks to bring $200 million of fiberoptic development to the Hudson Valley; if a deal is worked out, the company will first do work in Sullivan County.

The company approached the county because it had heard about the LDC’s project, and wanted to help bring high-speed internet service to the area, Brooks said. While the LDC and the company still needed to iron out the details of their agreement, he projected that there would be a deal before Labor Day. The partnership could focus on the western end of the county first.

“For a long time, Sullivan County, we’ve kind of taken what we can get,” said Brooks. “And I think we’re at a point now where I feel pretty confident in saying that there’s some bright skies in the future for us as far as high-speed access to broadband.”

The LDC’s primary project—offering broadband coverage wirelessly through the county’s public cell towers—continues to progress, according to Brooks. The LDC was working with a private company to run the back office of the broadband project, and the two were working through necessary contract language for that. (Click here for more coverage of that project, including of a $1.7 million dollar grant the LDC received.)

The UDC’s questions centered on a tangential focus of the project: improving safety along the river corridor.

Members of the UDC and of the public asked whether the LDC could improve cell phone connectivity along the river corridor. Cell service is nonexistent at points along the Upper Delaware River, which causes safety concerns when river-goers in danger can’t call for help; the UDC has taken up this issue, which led to the creation of its cell tower subcommittee.

The LDC’s broadband project didn’t focus on solving that problem, said Brooks. It could potentially help, but not until the project was further developed. “The way I’ve always looked at this, once we have this infrastructure in place, wired and wireless, it opens up the ability to do more than just high-speed broadband: we can get into public safety, we can start to talk about cell.”


The UDC’s August 4 meeting also was the introduction of Know FIMFO, a concerned-citizens group organizing around the development of Camp FIMFO in the Town of Highland. (Click here for more information about this project.) Local advocate John Pizzolato and head of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network Maya van Rossum spoke as Know FIMFO’s representatives at that meeting, with several other members present.

“It’s not necessarily a group that’s targeting not allowing the company to come in and expand and to work; we just want to see some transparency and some restrictions put on it,” said Pizzolato.

Know FIMFO appeared at that meeting, because the Camp FIMFO project requires review by the UDC. While the UDC is scheduled to review the project at its August 23 review committee meeting, Know FIMFO appeared on August 4, asking for information on how it could be involved in that review process.

The UDC wasn’t really set up to incorporate that involvement, said various members. It only reviewed very specific details of the project, comparing it against the River Management Plan and the Land and Water Use Guidelines; it didn’t hold public hearings the same way a planning board would.

UDC Resources and Land Use Specialist Kerry Engelhardt, the staff member tasked with conducting that review, said that members of the public were welcome to correspond with her if they saw discrepancies between Camp FIMFO’s plans and the UDC’s guidelines, but that her review would be completed by the August 23 meeting; she would present her analysis at that meeting, not conduct it then.

UDC chairperson and Highland representative Andy Boyar expressed a number of his concerns about the project, having attended the planning board meetings where it had been discussed, and recommended that the public air its concerns before the town board. “You’ve been stifled, really, up unto this point, but maybe the opportunity for the public to be heard hasn’t happened yet because the public hearing hasn’t even been set.”

Upper Delaware Council, broadband, fibre optic, Camp FIMFO, project review


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