This summer two Adirondackers embarked on pioneering ventures in park connectivity and shared their stories today at a Forever Wired panel on infrastructure development.
In Paul Smiths, Mark Dzwonczyk’s family spends six weeks of every summer at his wife’s family’s camp on the St. Regis Lakes. As president and COO of a Web conference call company, Dzwonczyk has had to return to work in California while his family stayed here. A few years ago he decided to figure out how to work from the Adirondacks so he could stay too. Verizon customer service told him they’d send somebody out to hook up DSL, but the local linemen knew better: the phone cable runs two miles under the water so it’d be daunting and prohibitively expensive to set up all the relays needed to connect the camp that way.
Dzwonczyk tried a satellite connection. Dinner guests due at 6 started showing up at 4:30 with their laptops, he says, and boats would float offshore at night as neighbors tried to tap into the signal.
Finally Dzwonczyk decided to establish a wireless network for 25 of the 50 or so seasonal camps on the St. Regis Lakes. The businesspeople were the ones most enthusiastic about it, he says, thinking they could stay in touch with work, but it turns out that they use only about 5 percent of the bandwidth. Families—especially those with teenage kids—are by far the biggest users.
“The good news is I was here seven weeks this summer, still running my company in Silicon Valley,” Dzwonczyk says. He paid to establish the wireless network “as sort of a friends and family” gesture (each participating camp plays a flat rate usage fee), he says, but he is looking into expanding it as a business venture.
Stephen Svoboda, executive director of the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts in Blue Mountain Lake says the facility opened a business center July 4 to provide Internet access as well as office conveniences such as printing, copying and teleconferencing. Residents of Blue Mountain Lake come in to check e-mail and to shop online, Svoboda says, and hotel guests and other visitors will come in for an hour or two to catch up on work while their families are canoeing “or doing something fun.” [UPDATE: Clarkson University is applying for stimulus funding to host eight to ten similar centers with partners around the Adirondacks. The ALCA business center is something of a pilot project.]
Svoboda recently took the arts center job after working as a playwright and theater arts professor at the University of Miami. He was concerned that a move to the north woods might limit his writing work. He has found that through the Internet he is able to stay active in the larger theater world. “I just finished having a show in Soeul, South Korea, and I never left the Adirondacks to do that show . . . while working in Blue Mountain and living in Tupper Lake,” Svoboda says.
There was a lot of interest in an exchange at the end of the panel, during a question and answer session. David Malone, a corporate sales manager from Verizon, was asked to quantify just how much of the Adirondack Park the company covers. After explaining that Verizon has been putting a lot of attention and investment into erecting 13 cell towers on I-87 (at $550,000 per), and after being asked the question again, he owned that he has no statistics on how much of the Adirondacks Verizon covers. There will be “more buildout” soon in the Malone and Plattsburgh regions, he says, and in Paul Smiths and Keene.