Hamlet subject of wireless Internet experiment
BLENHEIM A pilot program under development in Schoharie County would create a wireless Internet hot spot centered around the hamlet of North Blenheim.
The Middleburgh Telephone Co., also known as MidTel, signed an agreement with the town of Blenheim for a three-month program slated to start in the spring.
Communication, both via cellphone and over the Internet, is one of several topics being eyed for improvement by the town's post-flood, long-term recovery committee.
The town that once bustled with activity as a hub of outlying farms in the 1800s gradually lost businesses and population before Tropical Storm Irene pummelled the region in 2011, leaving Blenheim residents in the dark for days. The destruction energized town residents who gathered to map out a plan to bring Blenheim back from the brink of extinction.
Wireless Internet access would be made available to small businesses and the general public under the effort, which MidTel will pay for.
"We're all excited about it," Blenheim Supervisor Robert Mann Jr. said.
Mann said residents who don't already have Internet access could take advantage of free wireless during the program, as could home-based businesses.
The town is rebuilding its parks along the Schoharie Creek while considering a creekside walking route along town land. The town also rebuilt its flood-wrecked pavilion behind Town Hall, making for another site where wireless Internet might sweeten prospects for a visit to Blenheim.
Mann said the life of the program will depend on the outcome of the initial test.
"At this point, it's our intention to kind of see the quantity of users that are accessing it and see what we can do moving forward," he explained.
MidTel manager Jason Becker said the company plans to extend fiber optic cable or an Ethernet circuit to a centrally located "node" that looks like a small beer keg. In the event expansion is warranted, additional nodes could be added to spread out service to a broader area, with one node wirelessly talking to the next.
The decision to do so will depend on the level of usage, so as to avoid building out equipment that won't be used.
"You've got to deploy it and get a sense of whether or not it's going to be feasible," Becker said.
Luring business activity into the town is another goal of the long-term recovery committee, and success in that initiative could lead to a greater need for Internet.
Becker said the company is projecting an April launch of the service, if all works well.