A survey may help bring high-speed broadband access to every household in Schoharie County.
In a wide-ranging marketing effort, officials plan to use the survey results to attract a company for the high-tech service.
Broadband, not available in most of the county, is much faster than dial-up Internet service and faster than DSL, said Angela Kogler, a member of the county Telecommunications Task Force.
“To some people, it’s just e-mail,” she said. “But it’s for business, medicine, students. It hits every cross-section of the population.”
Getting broadband here is the purpose of the survey.
The Task Force distributed the survey in late May, and a second distribution of the single-sheet survey is in this issue of the Times-Journal.
Only 16 questions, the survey asks for addresses, Internet use and types of service used now. Only one survey per address may be submitted.
“Our idea was to find out what was and what wasn’t served,” said Gretchen Randazzo of the county’s Central Data Processing Department and a Task Force member.
Early returns indicate overwhelming support for broadband, according to Stanley France, director of Central Data Processing, which is compiling the results.
But the Task Force wants 10 percent of the households in each town to return the survey to give it more impact. So far, returns “are a little over five percent but not at 10,” Mr. France said.
Towns in the southern end of the county need to return more surveys, he said.
It’s those rural areas, Mr. France said, that could benefit most from broadband.
“Those areas are really underserved,” he said. “Cobleskill Middleburgh, Schoharie, to Central Bridge. . .those areas are served.
“But outside of that circle, the population is down, service is down.”
New Visions, a Syracuse firm, is already interested in bringing broadband to the county. Other vendors could be attracted by the survey results, too, said Earl Van Wormer, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.
Mr. France said companies could use the survey to secure state funds that would help install broadband.
It’s possible, he added, that a vendor could team with an existing local provider such as MidTel.
Whatever vendors are interested, the Task Force will market the county as a whole. It doesn’t want vendors serving only the most populated towns and leaving out smaller ones, Mr. France said.
“There won’t be any cherry-picking here,” he said. “Our bargaining chip is that government is behind this.”
Mr. Van Wormer agreed.
“We have the survey for them, and we want them to serve all of Schoharie County,” he said.
Besides helping existing households and businesses, Mr. Van Wormer said broadband will make the county more attractive to companies that may want to relocate here.
In particular, he pointed out, broadband could serve the county’s new Empire Zones.
“It makes us very appealing with broadband as infrastructure,” Ms. Kogler added.
Few if any counties have full broadband service, Mr. Van Wormer said.
“We want to be one of the first, not one of the last,” he said. “That’s why we want everyone to fill out these surveys.”