Village of Schoharie to Add Free Wi-Fi to Downtown | Local News

By the end of the summer, the village of Schoharie expects to have free public internet access downtown, thanks to $100,000 from a state grant.

“I’m sitting in the village of Schoharie and the cell service is quite spotty,” Julie Pacatte said when she answered her phone on Thursday afternoon, but couldn’t hear the caller on the other end. some thread. Pacette is executive director of the Schoharie Economic Enterprise Corporation. “I hope community Wi-Fi will help solve this problem,” she said.

The Wi-Fi project will provide open internet access along a ¾ mile stretch from Main Street to Schoharie, Bridge Street to Prospect Street and possibly beyond. There are about 400 households and 800 inhabitants in this part of the village.

The project advanced on May 20, when Schoharie County Council approved the award of the development contract to MIDTEL, a Middleburgh-based telecommunications company. Construction of a mesh system – with antennas mounted on lampposts around the village – is expected to start in June and finish in August. However, there may be delays if supply chain shortages make equipment unavailable. At the latest, the project should be completed by the end of 2022, Pacatte said.

A potential technical issue is a state requirement that prohibits construction of infrastructure in a 100-year-old floodplain, which includes most of downtown Schoharie. The preliminary plan is to install equipment at higher elevations that can distribute signals to buildings on the lower west side of Main Street..

This is a first demonstration project under a “digital strategies initiative” for Schoharie County, designed to improve the local economy by modernizing rural telecommunications. A second part of the project will help local businesses adapt to selling and marketing online.

SEEC, the Schoharie Economic Enterprise Corporation, is a nonprofit economic development organization that worked with the county to seek state COVID assistance. Through the federal CARES Act, the village has received community development block grants totaling $741,000 in 2021 and 2022. In addition to $100,000 for the Wi-Fi project, most other grants will go directly to 23 local businesses under the form of digital marketing grants to businesses.

“We received over 30 applications in December; 23 companies were eligible and ready to participate,” Pacatte said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough grants for everyone.” $250,000 went to the top candidates. Another $375,000 was awarded to businesses in Schoharie County on Monday, May 23.

The COVID pandemic has shown rural businesses that they must both be “hyperlocal,” focused on the needs of their immediate community and, ironically, also be internet savvy so they can extend their reach beyond the local region, according to Pacette.

“People wanted to help their neighbors stay in business and find their livelihoods as much as they could,” she said. “Particularly in Schoharie County which had experienced a flood 10 years prior, everyone pulled together and kind of dredged in the water together. And I think we felt the same feeling during the pandemic. . »

However, for businesses that can effectively market themselves online, sell goods online or provide services remotely, “geographic boundaries no longer exist,” Pacette said.

Mike Forster Rothbart, personal editor, can be reached at [email protected] or 607-441-7213. Follow him @DS_MikeFR on Twitter.

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