FairPoint touts expansion in Windham County


Expansion planned in 28,400 locations in Vermont by the end of 2020.

Thirty-six of those projects are already planned or underway. A third of them are in Windham County.

BRATTLEBORO >> State President of FairPoint Communications Beth Fastiggi says her company has a great story about network investment over the past year.

"In Windham County alone, we improved broadband to 2,700 locations or made broadband service available," she said. "Then we have projects under construction or in the design process that's going to improve or add service to 3,300 locations in Windham County."

Fastiggi was on her way to Vernon to visit with the Fiber Optics Committee on April 25 when she stopped by the Reformer office. FairPoint wrapped up 17 upgrades in Windham County within the last six months, she said.

A project on Academy Road in Brattleboro, in which about 100 or more homes could benefit, was recently completed. Speeds in downtown Brattleboro increased from 15 to 25 megabits per second. And Marlboro and Halifax also saw recent progress in terms of additional or upgraded service.

Projects within Vernon, Dover, Wilmington, Readsboro and Wardsboro are all in various stages, said Fastiggi.

"Some are pretty well served. Some are really looking for increased speeds or better coverage," she said. "I think our message to those communities is really that we have a robust network in those communities."

"Neighborhood nodes" or remote terminals can be found in the various towns. They're usually blending into their surroundings.

Upgrades are made by adding new electronic equipment to networks. New service involves bringing in fiber cable.

Last summer, FairPoint took over as Vermont's "next generation" 911 provider. Besides connecting the physical network, database oversight, software deployment and software management were involved. In the federal "next generation" initiative to update the system, infrastructure around the United States was updated to meet the increasing use of mobile devices.

"That transition went smooth," Fastiggi said, calling Vermont's system "if not the most advanced, one of the most advanced" in the United States. "We have a proven track record in the state of Vermont."

With about 20 percent of FairPoint's service in the Green Mountain State, Fastiggi said it was "a very important market" for the company. New England makes up 80 percent of its business.

"Not only are we making our own investments and making some of these projects happen because of our own investment," Fastiggi said, but the company is participating in the Connect America Fund program which is helping to support broadband services in "geographically challenged" areas. "It's definitely a challenge to figure out how to pay for and invest in these areas."

FairPoint accepted more money from the program in August. The focus was always on rural areas. But now in the program's second phase, specific census blocks were identified along with goals and criteria from the Federal Communications Commission, Fastiggi said.

The company is expected to complete build-out projects in 28,400 locations in Vermont by the end of 2020. Thirty-six of those projects are already planned or underway. And a third of them are in Windham County.

The goal, Fastiggi said, is "not lofty."

"It's definitely challenging but it is not lofty," she said. "We have taken on many broadband commitments — state and federal commitments — and have met every single one of them. We have full confidence in our engineer and construction teams that we will be able to build them within the time frames.

The sites are chosen for their lack of cable. They are in places where competition is non-existent or very limited, said Angelynne Amores, FairPoint's external relations director.

The one question residents routinely ask, according to Fastiggi, is whether they'll be able to watch movies and television shows through the streaming video service Netflix.

"Forty percent of our traffic is Netflix," she said, noting that analysis shows peak-bandwidth usage in Brattleboro occurs at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday nights.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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