Posts Tagged ‘economics’

Monday, September 20, 2010

Paul Smiths VIC To Close October 10th

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has announced that The Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) will end public programs during what the agency is calling “a transitional period pursuant to state budget mandates.”

The VIC will close to the public on October 10, 2010. For the time being, APA staff will continue to work at the main building but will no longer provide public interpretive programming or provide general information to visitors.

The outside trail system will remain open to the general public seven days a week. Rest room accommodations will be available Monday-Friday.

“During the transitional period, the Adirondack Park Agency will continue to explore alternatives for the potential reuse of the facility,” APA spokesman Keith McKeever said. The VIC will no longer be funded by the state after December 31, 2010.

In July, officials from the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) transfered ownership of the state-owned buildings and equipment at the Newcomb VIC to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF). ESF will manage future Newcomb VIC programs, but current employees of the VIC fear layoff at the end of the year.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Climate Change in the Adirondacks

“Although global in scale, the impact of climate change will be felt, and its effects will need to be fought, at the local level.” That simple truth – that the climate is changing, that we’ll feel it, and fight it, here in the Adirondacks – is taken from the flap of the new book Climate Change in the Adirondacks: The Path to Sustainability by Jerry Jenkins (who is giving a talk on the book this Friday at 7 PM at the Northwoods Inn in Lake Placid).

The book is an extensive gathering of data on local climate change problems, and as importantly, what Jenkins calls “An Adirondack Strategy” that includes suggestions for moving from fossil fuels (coal and oil) to renewable energy (sun and wind). What makes this book so valuable is that Jenkins has crafted a readable and useful reference developed with local Adirondack conditions in mind: our excessive automobile and home energy use; the increasing loss of ice and snow cover and winter recreation businesses and facilities; the northern movement of the boreal forest and invasive species from the south; the loss of northern climate cultural traditions. “These losses will be extensive,” Jenkins writes. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alan Wechsler: Comparing Colorado to the Adirondacks

I recently spent a few days touring around Colorado by bicycle. It was my seventh trip to the state, in both summer and winter.

The trip took me on a few parts of the Colorado Trail, a 450-mile hiking route that follows the spine of the Continental Divide from Denver to Durango. It also took me to some of Colorado’s old mining towns, most of which have been recast as a combination tourist attraction and burgeoning home to the young, artsy and outdoorsy.

The trip got me thinking about the differences between the Rocky Mountains and the Adirondacks, where I first learned to climb mountains and have spent the last 25 years exploring. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Commentary: Forest Preserve – Forever Taxable?

The approximately three million acre, publicly-owned and “forever wild” NYS Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks is taxable for all purposes. Since 1886, that’s been the law. How can we make sure such tax obligations are paid, forever? I want it that way, and so do many others.

The law says that Forest Preserve lands shall be valued for tax purposes as if privately owned (Section 532a of the Real Property Tax Law). Late 19th century lawmakers recognized that downstate economic and other benefits of protecting upstate watersheds in the Adirondacks and Catskills more than justified waiving the State’s exemption from being taxed. And thus it has been ever since. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Second Annual Forever Wired Conference Set

Clarkson University is now taking registrations at for the second annual Forever Wired Conference on Tuesday, September 7, in Potsdam. Conference organizers intend to grow telework and economic opportunities in the greater Adirondack Park and demonstrate how technology and services can help local businesses and individuals in predominantly rural regions.

Last year’s conference drew more than 260 participants from across New York State and included many seasonal residents of the Park as well. Adirondack Almanack founder John Warren covered the event for the Almanack.

This year sessions include a panel of independent broadband technology experts who will answer questions about existing and emerging broadband alternatives; representatives from brick and mortar businesses adopting new Internet-based business strategies, artisans using emerging online business strategies to expand their outreach; and independent entrepreneurs adopting broadband as their primary interface point with customers.

The conference is a central component of the Adirondack Initiative for Wired Work, which is championed by a team of regional leaders and energized professionals dedicated toward creation of a sustainable economy in the greater Adirondacks. Through their activities, the Adirondack Initiative encourages telework, green-tech commerce and entrepreneurship from home offices and businesses with minimal impact on the natural environment.

Clarkson University is expanding support services for teleworkers and entrepreneurs in the area. Renovations are underway now for the Adirondack Business Center hosted by the Clarkson Entrepreneurship Center in Saranac Lake, N.Y. The center will be equipped with wireless Internet, a conference room, quiet workspace, and will provide other
amenities to the public. The built-in classroom will hold sessions such as “My Small Business 101” to advance practical business skills of local entrepreneurs.

For more information on the Adirondack Initiative for Wired Work, or to
register for the Forever Wired Conference, go to http://www.clarkson.edu/adk, e-mail foreverwired@clarkson.edu or call
315-268-4483.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Garbage Collection on Lake George Islands to End

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation will stop collecting garbage and recycleables from the state-owned islands on Lake George, a DEC spokesman said.

Starting in 2011, the DEC will maintain a “carry in – carry out” policy, said David Winchell.

“This is the system that is used in the rest of the forest preserve,” he said.

The decision to discontinue garbage collection was made to save money, said Winchell: “Due to funding reductions to the Department of Environmental Conservation from the state’s historic budget shortfall, all DEC programs are seeking ways to reduce operating costs while still providing the basic services.”

According to Winchell, the island campsites are more expensive to operate than other camp grounds, and garbage collection increases those costs.

“The DEC recognizes that this is somewhat of an inconvenience for some campers, however, the costs for operating the campgrounds must be reduced to avoid other steps that campers are less receptive to, such as raising rates or reducing the number of campsites,” said Winchell.

Erich Neuffer, a Bolton Landing deli owner who operates the Glen Island commissary as a concession, said his contract with the state requires the DEC to collect garbage and recyclables from the store.

But his contract expires at the end of 2010 and he said he had no definite plans to renew it.

New York State began collecting garbage from the islands in 1955, a service that provided summer employment to hundreds of local youths.

“People told us we were the hardest working state employees they had ever seen, said Kam Hoopes, who worked on the barges in the 1970s

A petition has been circulated among the island campers calling upon the state to maintain the service

Approximately 700 signatures have been collected at the Glen Island store and sent to DEC, said Marie Marallo of Rutland, Vermont.

“This decision will be devastating to Lake George and the beautiful land and water,” said Marallo.

Marallo said she fears people will ignore the “carry in- carry out” policy and leave their garbage on the islands, or throw it into the lake.

“I was told that people have made the comments that they will just bring burlap bags, put the trash in them, weight them and then throw these into the lake,” said Marallo.

Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky said he would urge the DEC to reconsider adopting the new policy.

“The new policy is not lake-friendly,” he said. “It will lead to a lot of rubbish problems.”

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Local Economics: Confessions of a Granola-Eater

Yes, I eat granola.

Ergo, I am a granola-eater, and in the view of some people, that makes me a cheapskate hiker.

Over the years I’ve heard a few local politicians complain about “granola-eaters” who gas up their cars outside the Park, drive to the Adirondacks for a hike or canoe trip, and return home without spending a dime.

I’ve always been puzzled by this attitude.

First, it’s wrong. OK, many hikers and paddlers are not lavish spenders, but some of them are and most of them do spend money during their Adirondack sojourns. And there are a lot of them. Their dollars add up. How do you think EMS in Lake Placid, Mountainman in Old Forge, the Mountaineer in Keene Valley, and Hornbeck Boats in Olmstedville stay in business?

Second, it’s wrongheaded. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that hikers, paddlers, and other backcountry enthusiasts don’t spend money in the Adirondacks. Whose fault is that? Isn’t it up to entrepreneurs in the Park to figure out how to pry cash from their tight fists? If these people aren’t spending money, I assume it’s because businesses are not offering goods and services they desire.

In fact, as already noted, there are many businesses and outfitters in the Park that cater to backcountry enthusiasts. I can’t help noticing that many of them are run by transplants. John Nemjo, for example, grew up in New Jersey and started Mountainman after moving to the Adirondacks in 1993. It’s now one of the largest canoe-and-kayak dealers in the Northeast.

Money can be made off hikers and paddlers, but first you have to see them as potential customers, not as tightwads.

If nothing else, you can sell them granola.

Photo of a granola-eater by Susan Bibeau.

Phil Brown is editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, July 26, 2010

PSC: National Grid’s Rates Should Come Down

Earlier this year, I published a piece arguing that the National Grid power company gouges upstate New Yorkers.

A piece in The Post-Standard offers some fresh evidence in that regard.

The Syracuse daily reports that the monopoly power deliverer is charging its Upstate New York electric customers for computers in New England, software licenses on Long Island and other corporate costs that have nothing to do with Upstate utility operations, auditors at the state Public Service Commission (PSC) say.

PSC investigators came across this information while looking at the multinational’s plan to raise electric rates on New Yorkers by $369 million a year, including $25 million a year in bonuses (apparently without any requirement that the employees reduce costs to pay for them).

So questionable are the power company’s procedures that PSC auditors concluded: “Transactions between the former Niagara Mohawk and other companies owned by National Grid are so loosely documented that Upstate utility customers likely are subsidizing other parts of National Grid’s business.”

The paper reported that in recent years, National Grid has justified purchasing several other utilities by arguing that the company would save money via efficiencies and consolidation. But PSC staff noted that such the cost of the shared services actually increased, far higher than the rate of inflation.

A PSC panel said the company’s plan to raise rates had “a number of serious problems” and had so many objections that it actually recommended National Grid DECREASE rates by $14 million a year.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Common Ground Alliance to Focus on Jobs

The Adirondack Common Ground Alliance will hold its fourth annual summer conference at the Sabattis Pavilion in Long Lake on Wednesday (July 14) in an effort to hammer out a strategy for building long-lasting, private-sector employment in the 103 towns and villages that comprise the Adirondack Park.

The Common Ground Alliance is a forum for public-private collaboration. State and local governments, nonprofit organizations, business owners, stakeholders, and residents of the Park participate as equals. The Alliance works to promote the common good of the communities, residents, and resources of the Adirondack Park, not to further specific organizational, institutional, or individual agendas. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Guest Commentary: APA and Economic Development

Steve Erman, the Adirondack Park Agency’s Special Assistant for Economic Affairs, has offered the following perspective on the APA and its role in regional economic development. It’s presented here for your information in its entirety:

Economic Development in the Adirondack Park – – The Appropriate Role for the Adirondack Park Agency by Stephen M. Erman

Over the past few weeks, there has been speculation and opinion offered by citizens and elected officials about an expanded economic development role for the Adirondack Park Agency. Before moving too far down this path, we should consider the strengths and limitations of the Park Agency and other State and local government organizations and regional not-for-profits with roles to play in economic improvement. The Park and its communities require and deserve effective economic development and other programs to support the creation and expansion of businesses that can thrive in this very special place. There must be a stronger focus on encouraging entrepreneurs, planning, and the ongoing protection of regional character and environmental quality.

Since 1982, I have served on the Adirondack Park Agency’s senior staff as Special Assistant for Economic Affairs. I administered a well defined economic program in an agency with core functions of land use planning and the regulation of development. Before coming to the Adirondacks, I was a consultant in Washington, D.C. and learned the
importance of building organizational capacity to create and implement workable economic development strategies. My experiences have given me a unique perspective on what is necessary for a stronger economic development agenda in the Adirondack Park.

The Agency’s economic development policy states in part, that “The Agency will support the creation and retention of jobs within the region in ways that are consistent with its statutory responsibilities with the understanding that economic improvement and stability are vital parts of a collective effort to protect and enhance quality-of-life within the Park.” Within this context, the Agency supports the efforts of State and local economic developers in a manner which does not conflict with APA permitting and other statutory requirements. We correctly recognize that the Agency cannot identify and recruit specific business ventures because of inherent statutory conflicts of interest when projects need to obtain Agency permits.

My work at the Agency has involved substantial outreach to economic developers to explain how land use is regulated in the Park. Assistance has also been given to entrepreneurs seeking to adapt their project proposals to the physical limitations of their sites before applying for development permits. This pre-application guidance has been helpful in speeding up the permit process. My work as an ombudsman has helped reassure entrepreneurs that businesses are welcome in the Park and that, with proper attention to planning details, permits are predictably issued. I have also provided objective analyses of the economic and fiscal impacts of projects to the Agency staff and Board.

Implementation of an economic program at the Agency which does not conflict with its regulatory responsibilities is challenging but the effort has been important. Over time, there has been improved recognition of the relationship of our region’s special environment to the economic viability of Adirondack Park communities and the economic security of Park residents. There is also increased awareness that the Park is a place where businesses can be established and expanded, often with the help of Agency staff.

The Agency has a workable approach for permitting “shovel ready” business parks so our region can provide the same incentive typically available beyond the Blue Line. Eight business parks have been permitted to date and two of these (Chesterfield and Moriah) are “shovel ready” so businesses require no further Agency permits.

The Agency has also expedited development permits when this was critical for jobs and business retention, as was the case with a new plant for Old Adirondack, Inc. in the Town of Willsboro. And, of great importance, the Agency has helped strengthen the capacity of a range of not-for-profit organizations which are now able to work together on regional economic development planning.

I am convinced that there can be steady improvement in the economic vitality of the Adirondack Park but it will require better definitions of responsibility and increased coordination between State agencies, local governments and involved not-for-profits. We need to reduce competition and conflict. We must recognize and respect the distinct
roles that are necessary in building a more diverse and robust economy without denigrating the environmental resource which has clearly given us a competitive advantage over many other regions of the United States.

Initially, three things are critically needed: First, the funding and empowerment of local governments and not-for-profit economic development organizations to conduct well focused and realistic economic planning; Second, increased focus by the NYS Department of Economic Development, the State’s lead development agency, on adapting its programs to better serve the needs of New York’s very rural places, including the Adirondack Park; and, Third, the extensive use of the “Adirondack brand” to both market products made in the region and to advance destination tourism.

The Adirondack Park Agency has planning resources, including a sophisticated geographic information system, which can be very helpful in supporting regional economic development initiatives. And, with additional staff, the Agency can more effectively assist communities throughout the Park in comprehensive planning necessary to encourage
economic development.

The objectives of protecting the natural character of the Adirondack Park and significantly improving its economy are not mutually exclusive and the Adirondack Park Agency shares an interest in both. In my view, however, the Agency should not be the single organization –the “one stop shop” –selected to plan and promote the economic future of the Park because of inherent conflicts with its regulatory mandate. The Agency can best affect the economic future of the Park and its diverse communities as a ready and able technical resource and by being knowledgeable about the full implications of Agency decisions.

Additional planning capacity and closer coordination with State and local government will allow the Agency to serve a significant role in supporting other organizations which can lead regional economic development efforts in the future.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Study: Visitors Are Younger, More Affluent

Visitors to Lake Placid and Essex County in 2009 were younger and more affluent than in 2008 according to the latest travel and tourism study. For the seventh year in a row, the Technical Assistance Center (TAC), based at SUNY Plattsburgh, was contracted by the Lake Placid CVB/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (LPCVB) to conduct an independent, third party Leisure Travel Information Study.

According to the report, the average household income of 2009 respondents was $93,211, which is slightly higher than in 2008 and the 5-year average of $91,610. The average age was 49.9 years, slightly lower than in 2008, with a 5-year average of 48.9 years.

Respondents live primarily in the Northeast. Hotels remain the most common type of lodging respondents used during their stay. When asked to select the activities which attracted them to the region, the top three were consistent with the 5 year average: outdoor activities, relax/dine/shop and sightseeing.

The results affirm many of the findings from previous years according to the study’s authors. Although there are seven years of data, the 2009 report compares to a five year rolling average to smooth out anomalies.

The LPCVB promotes the Schroon Lake, Lake Champlain, Whiteface, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid regions. The study is based on a survey of the LPCVB’s 2009 trackable leads database. New leads are added on a constant basis; walk-in visitors, phone and mail inquiries, bingo cards from magazine advertising, and web signups provide a snapshot of the respondents to the 2009 overall marketing efforts.

Although lakeplacid.com alone receives millions of unique visitors, the survey takes only these trackable leads into consideration. In order to calculate the economic impact of the LPCVB’s marketing efforts exclusively, the results do not include any standard economic multipliers, such as the impact from group visitation, staff expenditures, sales tax or events.

In addition to valuable demographic data and trends, the study’s intent is to determine the effectiveness of the LPCVB’s marketing programs, to measure the return on investment (ROI) ratio for public marketing expenditures and the conversion rate factor, or the number of those leads who actually visited the region.

The report found that the percent of visitors who stated that the information or advertisements viewed influenced their decision to visit the region was 79%, which is near the five-year average of 82%. And, for every occupancy tax dollar the LPCVB spent on marketing, visitors to Essex County spent $89, which is slightly higher than in 2008, and lower than the five-year average of 99:1.

The 2009 report, additional CVB research and more is available for download at a new online resource developed specifically for local tourism-related businesses at www.lakeplacidcvb.com.


Monday, June 28, 2010

VIC Commentary: Vital Service, No One’s Responsibility

I went to the ceremony this week that formally announced plans for a smooth transition of the Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in Newcomb from the Adirondack Park Agency to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

It was a great relief to learn that APA, SUNY and the Town of Newcomb had been planning for this transfer of responsibilities even before the Governor’s budget announced plans to close both VICs in 2011. The fate of Paul Smith’s VIC remains very much up in the air, despite a long-held awareness that interpreting the Adirondack environment is a vitally important job and service that should be available to anybody throughout the Adirondacks at low or no cost.

The tragedy of the commons holds that all parts of the environment that we share in common is everybody’s to use, perhaps to exploit, and nobody’s to care for. The resource seems abundant, someone is responsible, it just isn’t me. The failure to systematically make the incredibly diverse and exciting natural and cultural history of the Adirondacks accessible to more Adirondackers and visitors to the Park is one of those tragedies.

Interpreting what is in a Park, and how it came to be there, and how it relates to people’s lives is a fundamental mission of the National Park Service, but not of any one agency in the Adirondack Park. It is said that not systematically offering to interpret a place to which so many are drawn, like the Adirondacks, is akin to inviting someone into your own home, and then abruptly disappearing. How many families have come and left the Park without ever encountering an Adirondack expert, in whatever field, who is also well versed in this form of public communication? Well over ten million people visit the Park each year. Less than one percent may seek out or casually encounter someone who can deepen their awareness, understanding and knowledge of Adirondack wildlife, Forest Preserve, unique architecture, or cultural history. This failure to reach more people with expert interpretation remains one of the greatest gaps in the continuing maturation and overall performance of the Adirondack Park.

The building and opening of the NYS APA’s VICs at Paul Smith’s and Newcomb in the late 1980s were expected to be the catalyst for the development of a well distributed and coordinated network of interpretive services across the Park. The Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st century made the “development of a comprehensive interpretive system for the Adirondack Park” one of the core functions of a proposed Adirondack Park Service (see the Commission’s Technical Report Vol. 1, #11 by Thomas L. Cobb, one of the Commission’s staff). Once built, in the 1990s the APA finally selected Adirondack Discovery as its nonprofit partner or arm of the VICs. Discovery featured expert presentations, coupled with field trips covering a wide range of Adirondack subjects, and convened these programs in town halls and libraries throughout the region, thus expanding the reach of the two VICs at very low cost since all expertise and service delivery were volunteered. Discovery’s founder, Joan Payne of Inlet, said at a 1987 conference called Envisioning an Interpretive Future for the Adirondack Park (see Cobb), “the trick in this whole field of interpretation is to bring together people who are receptive and eager to learn with people whose love of the place and all of its components just overflows.” She and Discovery did this very well for 25 years. I was just one of hundreds of people she invited to speak to local audiences throughout the summer months. In my case, I spoke about the Park’s conservation history that dated to the 19th century, and tried to relate that history to current events and threats. These talks and walks introduced me to some great towns and villages, people filled with curiosity and local knowledge, and opportunities for enlisting them in our cause of protecting the Adirondack Park.

Adirondack Discovery has ended its work, Joan died in 2009, and the VICs are threatened with closure. We can be grateful that the Newcomb VIC will in 2011 be under new management which has a similar commitment to “educational resources for both students and visitors so that they can learn about the wonders of ecology in the Adirondacks” (SUNY ESF President Neil Murphy). I walked Newcomb’s Peninsula Trail after the ceremony, feeling the freshness of discovery that I felt in 1990, gratitude for all the staff and volunteers who for 20 years have devoted themselves to enriching the lives of visitors, and the hope that anybody who comes here in future years will be guaranteed the chance to meet a naturalist who can help them gain fresh insights, and rekindle their love of and commitment to this Park that is so unique on planet earth.

Hopefully, Paul Smith’s College and other partners will help maintain and extend the services of the Paul Smith’s VIC. Meanwhile, The Wild Center, Adirondack Museum, Adirondack Architectural Heritage, Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Explorer, and many other diverse institutions are doing wonderful interpretive work. The stubborn questions still remain: who is coordinating and marketing all of those efforts? Who is ensuring that visitors and residents alike receive a schedule of all their program offerings? This continued failure to guarantee a Park-wide system of interpretive services is a gap we all share in common, and a problem nobody has the clear responsibility to solve. As Tom Cobb wrote for the Commission, “the future of education and interpretation in the Adirondack Park hinges on the acceptance of this role as an integral part of park operation and management.”

Photo: From the Peninsula Trail, Rich Lake, Newcomb VIC


Friday, June 18, 2010

Lake George Fears Loss of Millions if Americade Leaves

If you didn’t know Lake George businessmen, you might have been moved, if not embarrassed, by the love they expressed for Americade and its founder Bill Dutcher at a tribute thrown for the motorcycle convention earlier this week. But as someone attending the event remarked to me, “they’re not doing it for Bill, they’re doing it for themselves.”

Here’s how we covered the event in the Lake George Mirror.

“This is a love fest, and I’m loving it,” said Americade founder Bill Dutcher at a luncheon billed as an Americade Appreciation Event, hosted by the Inn at Erlowest on Tuesday, June 16. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Tourism Officials Optimistic Heading Into Summer

The Adirondack region relies heavily on tourism to support local economies – and if early returns are any indication, there’s good reason to be optimistic as the summer season begins picking up.

Two reports released in recent weeks show more people are packing their bags and heading out for mini-vacations – a good sign for hoteliers and restaurant owners in popular destinations like Lake Placid and Lake George.

The first report came from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Numbers for Memorial Day weekend this year showed a 17 percent increase in attendance over last year – and that’s with 41 parks opening at the last minute due to the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

The second report – a survey conducted by the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association – backs up the state’s numbers. NYSHTA is a not-for-profit trade organization representing some 1,300 businesses in the lodging and attractions industry. The survey found that 70 percent of hotel managers and lodging owners reported better business this year for Memorial Day weekend than in 2009.

Kim Rielly of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) says more people are taking unplanned vacations this year.

“These reports are consistent with our findings,” she said. “We’re looking forward to a good year, because there’s pent-up demand. People haven’t been traveling as much due to the economic downturn.”

Rielly also notes that recent negative press for the airline industry (see: volcanic ash and strikes) has more people looking for drive-to destinations.

“That’s the Adirondacks,” she said.

“Our proximity to millions of people in the New York metro area and the Montreal area works to our advantage,” Rielly added.

Rielly says that in Essex County, occupancy rates are already up over last year.

“And, from what we’re hearing from the area lodging industry, people are making a lot of last-minute travel plans,” she said. “Consumer confidence seems to be up, so we’re optimistic.”

Now for the part that may – no pun intended – dampen some of that optimism:

The weather.

The warm temperatures throughout the Adirondack and North Country regions in April and May flirted with the record books on several occasions. And, of course, most travelers to the area are here for outdoor activities.

“I was on my bicycle in February,” Rielly quipped. “But in all seriousness, we’ve been blessed with some fantastic weather. That’s absolutely going to play into that last-minute decision making and hopefully it will continue into the summer.”


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Update: Rural Broadband and the Adirondacks

Last year, Clarkson University launched its Adirondack Initiative for Wired Work, known colloquially as Forever Wired. I’ve been following this with interest partly because it has the potential to change the economic and cultural dynamics of the Adirondack Park and partly because it’s an intriguing and ambitious way to more closely link my alma mater to the region.

The Almanack has offered some good coverage of the initiative, as well as pointing out the difficulty of finding concrete data related to broadband usage and access inside the Blue Line.

With the Park threatened by expected deep cuts to the public sector workforce on which the region’s economy is heavily dependent, expanded broadband access will become even more critical to boosting the region’s private sector.

In this context, it seems fortuitous that the Federal Communications Commission recently launched and has heavily promoted its National Broadband Plan.

The FCC views universal broadband access as critical “to advance national purposes such as education, health care, and energy efficiency.”

The plan “recommends that the FCC comprehensively reform both contributions to and disbursements from the Universal Service Fund to support universal access to broadband service, including through creation of the Connect America Fund.”

The Commission has recently put particular focus on increasing broadband access in rural areas. A 2009 FCC report described broadband as “the interstate highway of the 21st century for small towns and rural communities, the vital connection to the broader nation and, increasingly, the global economy.” The 2009 ‘Stimulus Package’ provided some $7.2 billion for broadband projects.

As with cell phone and cable television coverage, broadband access faces particular challenges in sparsely populated, often isolated rural areas. But it will be interesting to see if the FCC’s plan and Forever Wired can help expand this infrastructure many see as critical to expanding economic opportunities in the Adirondacks.