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In My Opinion: Bill would advance connectivity for region

Wireless technology is rapidly advancing and, in our modern world, connectivity is a necessity.

Unfortunately, some rural communities in my district are being left behind — suffering from a lack of broadband and wireless connectivity.

My constituents need wireless to access voice and data connections through their mobile devices. It is a vital tool for economic development and for public safety.

Wireless infrastructure providers can now bring targeted improvements through the installation of small cell networks. For spread-out rural areas in my district, this means that improvements can happen quickly and efficiently.

Because the technology can be installed on existing utilities, small-cell networks are unobtrusive and require minimal construction.

Simplifying approvals for minor modifications to existing wireless facilities would help attract investment by providing a predictable and more cost-effective path forward for providers.

Legislation I am sponsoring this session would conform state law and local processes with federal law and is intended to provide an incentive for wireless carriers to maximize co-location at existing wireless facility sites rather than constructing new sites.

The bipartisan measure, with sponsorship in both houses of the State Legislature, would also provide local governments clear guidance and direction, which is largely governed by federal law and regulation.

I’m hopeful that having a statewide, uniform process for eligible wireless facility upgrades will encourage the wireless industry’s continued capital deployment in the state. I couldn’t overstate how needed this is in the North Country.

I want to emphasize the importance of wireless connectivity for public safety. I have had constituents who have not been able to reach the help they needed in an emergency due to cellular dead zones, with devastating, fatal consequences.

I will never forget the conversation I had with the widow of a gentleman who died not far off the side of an international highway, the I-87 Northway, trapped in their car, with a cell phone on his chest. They were unable to make the 911 connection that would have saved his life and prevented the severe frostbite and emotional trauma his wife suffered on a very, cold January night alone in the Adirondacks.

My constituents need improvements to their communities’ wireless infrastructure as soon as possible. Our economy and our public safety relies on it.

This bill will help ensure that rural communities — and all residents of New York state — have access to the wireless services they deserve.

I urge my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to support it.

Betty Little, a Republican from Queensbury, is the state senator representing the North Country.

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