HALIFAX -- After areas were designated as business broadband improvement districts by the Vermont Telecommunications Authority, a request for information went out seeking responses from business owners interested in subscribing to a potential broadband service.
"We didn't really receive any responses from Halifax," said VTA Executive Director Chris Campbell. "We have been turning over some stones, doing some digging and making some calls to see if there is perhaps anyone interested in this."
Campbell visited with the Halifax committee that specializes in broadband, cell service and economic development on July 9. He told the committee that the VTA would not be able to assist with every district approved around the state. Halifax had three districts approved.
"If we could help two that would be a good start then we'll see where we're at with money," he said.
The committee will move forward by asking several business owners in town if they'd be willing to make a customer commitment, a term that Campbell used to imply a willingness to pay.
In past situations, the VTA has assisted with the price of getting the service established. He said potential customers would get a price quote before a commitment was required.
The Thomas Hill area in town was identified as most feasible for the VTA to assist with. Campbell said the VTA had letters and literature that could be sent if the committee could identify addresses in that location.
"We give them a limited amount of time to respond, then we have to move on," he added.
Other areas previously identified by the VTA and committee could end up with better coverage through other various projects.
Using a map, Campbell pointed out where FairPoint had recently made broadband available to residents where there was no access before and where the proposed VTel wireless tower would generate additional access. He also mentioned the federally funded Vermont Fiber Connect Project will run through two of the districts approved by the VTA.
After that meeting, Campbell planned on visiting the Stamford-based Vermont Broadband Cooperative, which he said began as an effort initiated by a group that seemed to be in a similar situation as the Halifax committee. This was a group that Campbell believed could potentially share information with the Halifax committee.
The possibility of collaborating with a cable company such as Comcast and establishing a line extension policy was also discussed.
"A customer can make a customer contribution and the company is obligated to extend that line if that contribution is paid," said Campbell. "(That's) used to expand service in areas where no one was willing to volunteer."
Committee members weighed in on their efforts. The committee began its task of improving broadband access roughly four years ago. It is currently looking for a fifth member.
"I'm desperate," said committee member Jessica Bruno, who has an accounting business and sells items on the art website Etsy.
"We struggle with the overlapping grants and the overlapping of when might this actually happen," said committee member Edee Edwards. "I think that's a big part of the reason it's very hard to get the commitments. We're all kind of saying, 'When am I going to have other options?' It's a challenge."
The committee will be making attempts to find interested businesses, especially in the Thomas Hill area. Addresses on Hosea Fisher Road, Hale Road and Lucier Road will be sought. Meanwhile, individual residents will also be asked if they have any interest in broadband or cable services.
Edwards noted the difficulty in giving up a part of the project that the committee devoted so much time to. However, the other two identified districts are closer to the proposed VTel tower.
The application for the tower was filed with the Public Service Board on June 30. The site was moved closer to the road. Committee members voiced concern about the risk of the 90-foot structure collapsing. Edwards said she'd bring up that concern to the Selectboard at its next meeting as she is also a member of the board. There was a 21-day response period.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.