Sullivan County government begins building wireless broadband system

Most Sullivan County residents and businesses could get to subscribe to a speedy, new countywide wireless internet network by late 2023, if the county Legislature has its way.

In late August, the Legislature voted to create the Broadband Local Development Corporation. And the Legislature will soon appoint a five-member board for the LDC – a private, nonprofit, independent public benefit corporation.

Locally, the digital divide between the high-speed internet haves and the have-nots is notorious. Some 2,789 Sullivan County residents, or 3.7 percent, don’t have high-speed mobile or fixed internet access, compared with 5,925, or 3.3 percent, in Ulster County and 0.3 percent, or 1,140, in Orange County, according to a 2018 Federal Communications Commission study using 2016 data.

In a 2018 mail poll, 700 of State Rep. Aileen Gunther’s constituents in Orange and Sullivan counties complained about the lack of service, quality and rates of Charter Spectrum, the dominant local telecommunications provider. (Locals also use Frontier Communications and satellite internet service).

“This is transformational technology for the county,” said Lorne Green, the county’s chief information officer, the LDC board’s inaugural member and the project’s point person. “Being able to provide these high speeds over the air is unprecedented” in Sullivan County.