New Scotland looking to bring high-speed internet to all residents

From the New York State Broadband Program Office 

In large portions (the shaded area) of Albany County, high-speed broadband is still not available, according to the New York State Broadband Program. New Scotland is working with Hudson Valley Wireless to extend access to more residents. 

NEW SCOTLAND — The town of New Scotland announced last week that it is working with Colonie-based Hudson Valley Wireless to extend high-speed broadband access to town residents who may currently lack a network connection. 

Town residents may call the company to see if they are currently eligible for service, said Councilman Adam Greenberg. 

Hudson Valley Wireless General Manager Jason Guzzo said what’s happening in New Scotland is still fairly preliminary, but added that it’s a natural extension of the broadband project that the company recently completed in the Hilltowns.

“So we already have some fairly decent coverage into the town,” Guzzo said. “And what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to identify what we would consider unserved and underserved populations of the people who don’t have access to affordable high-speed internet.”

Guzzo had been working remotely and didn’t have access to the company’s coverage maps. 

Unlike traditional cable companies that run internet cables along power lines to then be hooked up to a home’s wireless router or ethernet cable, Hudson Valley Wireless runs on line-of-sight technology, Greenberg said, so the data can be transmitted and received only over the air and only when there aren’t any obstacles between the company’s transmitters and the receivers on people’s homes. 

Hudson Valley Wireless uses microwaves to transmit wireless internet to different satellite dishes, eventually connecting with small dishes installed on homes or at businesses.

The company already has towers or transmitters on the Helderberg escarpment, in Bethlehem, and on top of high-rise buildings in downtown Albany from where it can beam service from the city out into the more rural areas of the county, Guzzo said.

Asked about extending service into New Scotland, Guzzo said that the company tries not to build new towers unless it’s absolutely necessary; rather, it looks for existing structures from which it hangs its equipment, like a cell tower or a water tower — both of which are possibilities in New Scotland. 

But much of New Scotland may already be covered by the company’s existing technology.

“You know, New Scotland in this weird spot,” Greenberg said, explaining that there are areas of town, like the northeast quadrant and Voorheesville, that are more suburban, and, “you could consider us more like Bethlehem or Guilderland in terms of the utilities and the coverage but you get outside of those areas and we’re like the Hilltowns.”

Outside of Voorheesville and the towns’ hamlets — New Scotland, New Salem, Clarksville, Heldervale, and Feura Bush — service is needed, he said, adding there’s a need in some of those hamlets as well. 

But Greenberg added that he doesn’t want to make it sound like the need is universal; not every rural area in town lacks access to high-speed internet since the companies have to get their wires to Voorheesville somehow and they may be stringing them through some of the town’s more rural areas, so those areas may have coverage.

What New Scotland is trying to do now is to figure out exactly where in town there are high-speed internet dead spots, but the cable companies are not making it easy. 

Greenberg said that, as New Scotland seeks internet dead spots only to help residents, Spectrum and Verizon are stonewalling the town, claiming this information is proprietary; they will not share their coverage maps with the town.

“The maps are proprietary and confidential,” according to Spectrum spokeswoman Lara Pritchard. “However, maps are available for town officials to review and inspect in-person.”

Asked if a town official were to visit a Spectrum office to take a look at these proprietary maps would the official be able to take detailed notes on the coverage areas, Pritchard responded: “Town officials should work through their Charter government affairs contact with any interest and questions they have related to maps.”

Verizon and Spectrum, Greenberg said, want to be treated like they’re public utilities when it’s convenient, and, when it’s not convenient, they’re private companies that the state and its residents have no right to expect service from.

Municipalities can’t enforce the way the state or the federal governments can, Greenberg said, adding, “We hold no leverage.”

With everyone home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, bandwidth is being gobbled up, but Guzzo said that Hudson Valley Wireless subscribers haven’t seen a lag or disruption in service, nor will they, because the company recently completed a multi-million dollar network upgrade that deployed new broadband capacity. 

The company offers four plans:

— Basic: $50 per month, which has 10-megabytes-per-second download speed and 2-megabytes-per-second upload speed, with a data limit of 200 gigabits per month, and a currently discounted installation fee of $100;

— Silver: $55 per month, 25-megabytes-per-second download speed and 4-megabytes-per-second upload speed, unlimited data, and a discounted installation fee of $150;

— Gold: Basic: $80 per month, 50-megabytes-per-second download speed and 5-megabytes-per-second upload speed, unlimited data, and a discounted installation rate $150; and

— Platinum: $150 per month, 100-megabytes-per-second download speed and 10-megabytes-per-second upload speed, unlimited data, and a discounted installation rate $100.

Guzzo said that the Silver package was the best value with enough capacity for four people to stream four different shows at once.

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