Quest for improved internet draws attention

YOUTH. A local robotics team is hoping to draw attention to a need for improvement in internet services.

Sep 10 2019 | 04:35 PM

    An April visit by Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D- NJ 5) to the Newton High School robotics team led to the county’s first high speed internet forum in July, and in the weeks since, the issue has continued to garner attention from both residents and lawmakers.

    Since then, technology teacher and robotics coach Jim Hofmann and his students have been continuing to make an appeal that Sussex County deserves better internet. The internet forum was held on July 25, 2019 at the Newton High School, with Service Electric Cable and Planet Networks in attendance to hear residents’ concerns.

    Louis Crescitelli, III, chief of staff for the District 24 (R-24) legislative office of Senator Steve Oroho and Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space also came to the forum to hear from constituents.

    Century Link chose not to send representation that evening, but Hofmann said they’ve recently been in touch. “Century Link has since contacted me,” Hofmann said, “and they’ll be researching where they already have fiber laid out- it’s possible that some is lying dormant without connectivity.”

    In addition, the robotics team was able to speak directly to Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ11) during her visit to the NJ State Fair/Sussex County Farm and Horse Show on Aug 8. The students spoke with her about the research they’ve been compiling for the last few months, most notably how the county’s internet speeds stack up against those around the region and around the world. Spending the week displaying their robotics in the STEM Barn at the fair only highlighted the need for better local internet access, Hofmann said.

    “Being at the fairgrounds, all day for ten days, with such limited connectivity, really shows what we’re talking about,” Hofmann said, “We really couldn’t do anything on the internet.”

    By meeting with both Gottheimer and Sherrill, it’s Hofmann’s hope that the federal lawmakers can assist with pushing for grants and other funding to bring the much-needed technological infrastructure to Sussex County.

    “We’re just going to continue to network,” Hofmann said, “and hopefully we can meet the right people who can make decisions.”

    Hofmann and his robotics team have also been building a website to offer the public the latest information on current internet availability and their efforts to improve the technology, which can be found at https://sites.google.com/newtonnj.org/sussexcountyfiberoptic/home.