Nichole Gunn (above) was able to connect her entire neighborhood with internet access..

Nichole Gunn (above) was able to connect her entire neighborhood with internet access..

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Though Newfield resident and Dryden High School teacher Nichole Gunn was not able to obtain access to the internet for herself and her family prior to the first day of school, just six days after, on Sept. 16, Clarity Connect finally came through and laid down fiber optic cables to give the Gunn family internet service for the first time in about a year.

“The construction people came, said, ‘We’ll be back to look at stuff,’” Gunn said, describing what took place on Sept. 16. “They came back. He goes, ‘We’ll be back on Friday to hook it up.’ And then they called right back?—?I’m not joking if I told you that they called back within two minutes and said, ‘We’re going to come right back and hook it up today.’ So needless to say I was super excited.”

It was a satisfying conclusion to an exhaustive project of hers to not only get reliable internet access for her family, but also for the rest of her neighbors. That objective appears to be completed as Gunn said Clarity Connect was able to hook up nine other households in the neighborhood with internet service about a week after the company connected her household, though the hook up was quite expensive with one-time installment payments ranging from $500 to $1,000 per household.

With more than a month passed since connecting to an internet service, Gunn said the connection with Clarity Connect has gone better than expected as she and her children are able to do schoolwork and access the internet with ease.

“We’re able to do everything that we were doing before,” she said. “My son can game; we can watch Netflix again … all that. Everything that was functioning before we lost it now is back up and running and running even better than it was before.”

While she does give herself a good portion of the credit for bringing the project to fruition, she mentioned individuals like acting superintendent Eric Hartz offering assistance along the way with the option of supplying her household with a hotspot. (Gunn said she ultimately declined the offer because Clarity Connect got back to her shortly after and hooked up her house with internet service.)

Gunn also credited Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler, who has been a driving force in getting the reliable, high-speed internet access local residents around Tompkins County need to function during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“First, it was just the immediate problem,” Sigler said. “When we shifted into this idea of COVID-19 and everybody working from home, clearly a lot more people would need high-speed internet at their homes. If they need to, for example, teach a class at their house, well, they’re going to need high-speed internet.”

It was not that much of a challenging process, Sigler said, as it was primarily a matter of reaching out to internet providers and seeing what they had to offer.

“Spectrum has actually expanded quite a bit in Lansing, so a lot of people who didn’t think they could get service actually can get service,” he said.

“In fact, just yesterday, somebody reached out to me and said, ‘You know, the line went in a year ago, and they’re telling us we can’t service.’ So I had to reach out to Spectrum; they got back to me. We finally figured out that, yes, this person actually is eligible to get internet. They called up, they set up an appointment and early November they’re going to be getting a new, high-speed internet service.”

Moving forward, Sigler said he hopes to see municipalities reach out to internet providers and work out a deal to install internet service to those who do not have it already.

“From there, you can really work on a plan on how to move forward, whether that be we’re going to an RFP [request for proposal] with certain providers and they’re going to give us a bid on how much of a cost to get the rest of the town connected and then you can move ahead that way,” he said. “Now, that might involve putting tax on the ballot and seeing if people will vote for something like that. That’s one way forward.”

Meanwhile, Gunn urges those struggling to access reliable internet service to keep persisting with reaching out to providers.

“Don’t give up and keep contacting these companies, and keep contacting them and keep contacting them,” she said. “Companies don’t reach out and help other people if you’re not willing to help yourselves, you know what I mean? I was constantly emailing, texting, calling, and I just did it everyday, literally all day?—?that’s not even a joke?—?literally all day everyday, was trying to contact somebody.”

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