PUTNAM POSTING: Can You Hear Me Now?

PUTNAM POSTING: Can You Hear Me Now?
Jennifer Maher

As the Town of Carmel initiates steps to update the municipality’s Master Plan and others follow suit, it’s due time to address the county’s inadequate telecommunications infrastructure as a whole.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Isaias, at least one-third of Putnam households were left without power and thousands lost Internet service for several days. Of course, this isn’t Putnam’s first rodeo in the dark. Who can forget “Sandy” or the tornadoes of 2018 that ripped apart the Towns of Kent and Patterson? Yes, these were natural disasters—“Acts of God.” However, without any storms to blame, Putnam County’s telecommunications infrastructure is regularly sluggish, unreliable, and behind the times. In 2020, shouldn’t we be able to do better?

The work-from-home trend that many professionals have adopted over the last several years has risen exponentially due to COVID-19. The pandemic has demonstrated to even the most traditional businesses that working from home works. It’s convenient, cost-effective and employees are more productive. But, when former commuters are working from home and telecommunications go down, work stops, time is wasted and money is lost. Adding to this, with schools shifting to distance learning to manage the spread of COVID among our children and vulnerable residents, we cannot afford to be without Internet connectivity even briefly.

A Long Wait for 5G

Putnam County’s three major telecommunications providers (Verizon, Comcast, and Cablevision/Altice) do not want to invest in infrastructure upgrades to support existing fiber optic and copper cable networks (suspended by telephone poles) because 5G can deliver the same services, over the air, with minimal to no cost. The issue becomes timing. If we use the installation of 4G as a precedent, the rollout started in New York City to Westchester, then Duchess, and finally Putnam. According to that timeline, we will not see 5G for another five years! This is an unacceptable timeframe. We need our county government to incentivize Verizon and other cell providers to install 5G in Putnam County now. Verizon is specifically mentioned because they currently have the greatest number of towers in the county.

Putnam towns garner significant tax revenue from cell service providers. A tax incentive may be a potential motivator for providers to speed up 5G implementation. As an example, an offer of a tax break or waiver to service providers who install and activate 5G on their towers before the end of the fiscal year may be a workable option.

A five-year wait for 5G is an impediment for business and the community, as well as those considering a move to Putnam County. We can do better.

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