North Country residents call on state to help replace their human-powered internet

North Country residents call on state to help replace their human-powered internet
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 6:20 PM EST
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ESSEX, N.Y. (WCAX) - How far would you go for Wi-Fi? For one woman in Essex, New York, the answer is to the top of a mountain. But now she and the community she helps serve with the internet are asking the state for help finding something a little more permanent.

“It’s a great aerobic workout,” said Beth Schiller, who owns CvWireless.

In the town of Essex, New York, there’s only one choice for internet service.

“It’s the only option that serves our community, and it’s been it’s been great to have because otherwise we wouldn’t,” said Sydney Estey-Edelle, a CvWireless customer.

CvWireless-- or Bethnet, as the community affectionately calls it-- has filled the service hole in Essex for years. But Beth Schiller says it’s definitely not easy and is a community effort.

“Now I’ve got 125 families that are dependent on me to provide service... this community would be dead without internet at this point,” she said.

The transmitter is powered by both solar and wind power, but when there are cloudy, windless days, that can create a problem. To make sure reliable internet service is available to the Essex community, gas tanks have to be lugged up the side of a mountain for a mile. And that’s where Beth comes in.

“I think we also all feel like that it’s, it’s perched on kind of a knife edge because it is a one-woman operation,” said Mary-Nell Bockman, a CvWireless customer.

The internet that Beth provides serves businesses, homes and even schools at a comparable price to other big internet providers. The service is now something that the community can’t go without.

“I wouldn’t be able to put a credit card payment, I wouldn’t be able to take phone calls. I wouldn’t be able to post on social media, anything involving the internet,” said Teddi Rogers, a CvWireless customer.

“I live here because I can work remotely and pursue my career. And we should all be able to do that in this day and age,” Estey-Edelle said.

But even though the service is well-loved and trustworthy, locals know it won’t last forever.

“Relying on women in their 60s is not necessarily a long-term solution,” Bockman said.

Now Beth and her community are calling on state officials to find a long-term service provider for Essex and bring the community into the 21st century.