LAFAYETTE – When it comes to improving Internet service, “We’re all of one mind.”
So said Phil Murphy as he joined officials from both parties today to herald a plan to expand broadband connectivity in Sussex and Warren counties. The key to doing that is a $190 million appropriation coming to New Jersey through a recent federal stimulus plan.
The backdrop for today’s event was the “Chocolate Goat,” a gift shop in the center of this rural community on Route 15.
Naturally, this allowed Murphy, his fellow politicians and assorted hangers-on to visit the shop and buy some candy. The governor left with a “chocolate parfait,” which was a bag of miniature chocolates in the shape of goats (Of course).
Jennifer Koza, one of the owners, recalled that when the shop opened more than 20 years ago, technology basically consisted of a Fax machine. Times have changed, but she said Internet service is often spotty.
That’s a problem not only for her, but for residents and school children. And that problem became more acute during the pandemic when many schools were remote only.
Estimates are that from 20 to 25 percent of households in Sussex and Warren lack functionable Internet service.
So, as Rep. Josh Gottheimer put it, the incoming money is a “very big deal.”
Murphy struck a similar theme as he thanked a host of Republicans, including state Sen. Steve Oroho, Assemblyman Hal Wirths and a number of county and municipal officials for their support.
The congeniality of the day, however, didn’t carry beyond the perimeter of the event.
Sussex is solid Republican territory and while there was no organized protest, there were hecklers, one of whom yelled at the governor as soon as he arrived.
As the event ensued, a man cursed Murphy from a distance and told him to “go back to Germany,” where he was once the U.S. ambassador.
Later, a woman said the governor was not welcome in Sussex and that kids in school should no longer be required to wear masks.
Murphy took this colorful display of democracy in action in stride. He did say afterwards that the indoor mask requirement will end sooner rather than later.