BRATTLEBORO -- High-speed Internet access will expand into a significant portion of Guilford and Dummerston under a new, multimillion-dollar infrastructure investment announced this week.
The broadband expansion from FairPoint Communications Inc. will be finished sometime next year.
"We’re already starting engineering and construction," said FairPoint spokeswoman Sabina Haskell.
Statewide, FairPoint expects to invest $6.6 million in 17 towns to bring new broadband service to more than 3,200 customers. Seventy percent of those customers will have download speeds of seven megabytes per second or greater, administrators said.
The project is part of a state-approved plan to redirect regulatory penalties assessed against FairPoint in 2008, 2009 and 2010 into broadband investment in areas that have no such service.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has pledged, under an initiative called Connect VT, to connect all of the state’s homes to broadband by the end of next year.
"The $6.6 million FairPoint has been required to invest in unserved areas is instrumental in reaching our goal," Karen Marshall, chief of Connect VT, said in a statement accompanying Fairpoint’s announcement.
Mike Smith, FairPoint’s state president for Vermont, termed the project a "major component" of the state’s broadband plan and said the company has a track record of such investment.
"FairPoint has connected
In choosing which areas would be included in the project, FairPoint used census-block data showing unserved areas identified by Connect VT.
In addition to Guilford and Dummerston, the targeted areas include portions of Bethel, Bradford, Brownington, Chelsea, Corinth, Eden, Fairlee, Johnson, Pittsfield, Readsboro, Thetford, Vershire, Washington, West Fairlee and Weston.
Haskell said FairPoint is extending new high-capacity, fiber-optic wire to remote terminals where it will be connected to traditional copper wire that extends to homes. That second step does not hamper data service, Haskell said.
"We have a fiber-based network," she said.
Deadlines for the project are in June and December of 2013, Haskell said.
That’s good news for broadband-starved neighborhoods. At a recent Connect VT meeting in Putney, some Windham County residents said they had no access to high-speed Internet while others said they paid a premium for "mobile hot spots" that offered less-than-ideal service.
FairPoint’s plan includes sending broadband service into south-central Dummerston and a U-shaped portion of southern Guilford.
"We’re thrilled," said Anne Rider, a Guilford Selectboard member. "It provides more opportunities for people to live and work in Guilford."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.