BRATTLEBORO -- FairPoint Communications announced on Monday its plan to expand broadband Internet in 53 towns across Vermont -- including eight in Windham County.
Multiple neighborhoods in Halifax, Newfane, Putney, Stratton, Townshend, Wardsboro, Westminster and Whitingham will be part of an initiative to bring high-speed Internet to approximately 7,100 locations. More than 2,600 of these locations will qualify for monies from the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund, or CAF.
FairPoint will leverage $2 million in CAF funding, which is intended to accelerate broadband build-out to the 18 million American citizens that live in rural areas and lack access to such services, as well as some of its own money.
Sabina Haskell, FairPoint’s director of regional public relations, said the company started working on the submission to the FCC a few months ago at the earliest and filed the plan on Monday.
"I think it’s great for the state of Vermont that this funding is available," she told the Reformer. "It’s a big deal. It’s a very exciting time. I know of a lot of people down your way that are looking forward to having high-speed Internet."
Haskell said with this latest project, FairPoint will have invested nearly $100 million for broadband across Vermont since 2008. The project build-out will span three years with about a third of the communities getting online each
Haskell said Vermont is divided into service territories covered by six or seven different companies. She said 90 percent of the people in FairPoint’s territories have the ability to get the company’s service if they choose to.
Hedy Harris, the chairwoman of the Townshend Selectboard, said access to high-speed Internet could encourage more businesses to move to the area, especially individuals that want to conduct business from the comfort of their own house, condo or apartment.
She said it would also be beneficial to students doing homework or projects at home.
"I think students are at a real disadvantage in this area when they don’t have high-speed Internet," she said.
According to a statement, the CAF funding will also enable FairPoint to add broadband coverage in South China, Maine. Haskell said the company has 14,000 miles of optical fibers across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, with 3,200 of those in the Green Mountain State alone.
Haskell also said this is an important step in Gov. Peter Shumlin’s ConnectCT initiative, which aims to provide universal broadband and expanded cell coverage by 2013.
"This is a huge push," she said. "This goes a long way."
FairPoint last month chose the 19 areas that will see new broadband Internet coverage from a $6.6 million investment over the next year.
The target community areas will include unserved portions of Dummerston and Guilford.
The move is another major component is making the governor’s initiative into a reality.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.