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Over two years ago, Verizon provided the Port Washington peninsula with so-called fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP), which links individual consumers to Verizon's fiber optic network. Local residents have been able for some time to take advantage of this high-speed technology to access the Internet, but many approvals were and are necessary before Verizon was allowed to provide entertainment services in this area. (We would call these "cable services," but that label is technically incorrect.) Primary among the necessary approvals were the Town of North Hempstead (TONH) and the incorporated villages.

In April, the TONH board approved a contract with Verizon, which, together with Public Service Commission approval, cleared the way for local customers to have a choice of cable provider. According to TONH Council Member Fred Pollack, the contract requires them to provide service on a "fair and equitable basis" to all the town's unincorporated areas. Pollack said, "We got the best deal we could. We wanted them to be here so that customers would have a choice." He added, "Their deal had to be comparable with what we have with Cablevision so that there would be a "level playing field." Pollack added that TONH plans to use some of the income from the franchise to contract for a TV station and for TV program production.

The Village of Sands Point also has approved the Verizon franchise contract. Randy Bond, village clerk, said, "We are pleased that residents now have a choice. We recommend that they look at all the packages and pick the one that works best for them."

Residents of the other villages will have to wait awhile. Yvonne Whitcomb, clerk of the Village of Baxter Estates, said that the village is still in negotiations. She was hopeful that something would be worked out very soon. According to Palma Torrisi, clerk of Port Washington North, they have not yet entered into negotiations yet, but expect to do so soon. Previously, Mayor Bob Weitzner told the Port News that the village had halted the infrastructure work for a time after Verizon started two fires by slicing through some gas lines. Ronnie Shatzkamer, Manorhaven's village clerk, said that negotiations are continuing, adding that it has been difficult to schedule meetings during summer vacation season. She said that Verizon has done all the things that the village requested of them, including making needed repairs of poles, fallen wires, and the like. "They have been great," she said. "Now we really want to move forward on this."

Another concern of local residents is the frequent power outages, large and small. Even momentary outages can cause loss of computer data and electronic settings on other devices. The power surges that result when the electric is turned back on after an outage or a "brownout" can and do damage appliances. (This reporter had an expensive telephone destroyed, although it was on a so-called "surge protector," and was told that a Port North resident had her television "fried." Councilman Fred Pollack said that he has met with LIPA and that subsequently LIPA did a lot of rewiring and put in some new equipment on the six worst lines. He said, "It seems to have reduced the number of outages, but it's still too many." Pollack said that he will be asking LIPA for some new statistics and that he will review them. Port Washington North also has an ongoing project with LIPA to improve reliability on the peninsula. Previously, both Mayor Bob Weitzner and Trustee Steve Cohen, head of the Village's Infrastructure Committee, had said that they were pleased with the way that the project is going, but agreed with Councilman Pollack that there are still too many.

The primary problem, of course, is the fact that we have overhead wires throughout almost the entire peninsula. Various groups, individuals and government entities have inquired about the possibility of burying some or all of the overhead wires, but LIPA's consistent position has been and is that this would be "not economically feasible."

In a related development, Nassau and Suffolk County Executives Thomas Suozzi and Steven Levy announced that the counties are moving forward with a project that will provide wireless Internet access (so-called "Wi-Fi") throughout both counties. According to a recent Newsday article, they expect to sign a contract with e-Path Communications, a Florida startup that won the award through a competitive bidding process.


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