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State Says Only 3,000 Vermonters Still Without Broadband Service

Vermont Center For Geographic Information
Map showing broadband availability at the end of 2012

The state will fall short of its goal of universal broadband coverage by the end of 2013, but Governor Peter Shumlin says there’s still reason to celebrate.

Shumlin announced ‘over 99 percent’ of locations in Vermont now have access to broadband.  The state says only 3,000 addresses remain to be served.  

Expanding broadband in Vermont has taken  millions of dollars in state grants, major investments by service providers and most of all $174 million in federal money.

Officials say the federal figure represents the highest per capita U.S. government investment in broadband in any state in the country.

The state and federal money was used largely in the form of grants to help providers bring broadband to the most hard to reach areas of Vermont.

On Wednesday, the administration invited a roomful of broadband and wireless service providers including Fairpoint, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sovernet, VTel and ECFiber, along with state officials to illustrate the collaborative nature of Vermont’s broadband expansion effort. 

Officials say making grants available to providers to expand existing service, including DSL, fiber, and wireless broadband, has been the most efficient and quickest way to bring broadband to all Vermonters. 

Vermont Telecommunications Authority Executive Director Chris Campbell says even after everyone has broadband, the challenge will be to make sure the network continues to meet increasing demands for speed.

“We’ve been very, very focused on that, ‘get everybody something goal’ and it’s no small feat, but expectations rise over time.  So I think it’s going to be a question of what is the expectation that the state has,” says Campbell.

Vermont is currently ranked 17th in the nation according to one survey and a significant percentage of the state’s broadband is DSL, which is not as fast as some other technologies.  

Proponents of a fiber-optic system, like Irv Thomae of ECFiber, a community owned service provider say fiber technologyg is better suited for future demands. 

“We fervently believe that high bandwidth in rural areas, on the back roads, is essential to the Vermont economy in the 21st century,” Thomae told the group.

Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding says the state is sure of its claim that only 3,000 of the 295,000 addresses in Vermont remain without service.  He says some people may not be aware broadband is available to them. 

“We are confident that there’s coverage available in over 99 percent of the addresses that are out there. If there are individual circumstances that are causing issues, we need to address those,” Spaulding said.

Officials say broadband, including wireless broadband plays a critical role in economic growth, public safety and in energy conservation through the use of smart meter technology used by power companies.