Letter: More info needed for telecom plan

More info needed for telecom plan

Editor of the Reformer:

In response to "Sovernet continues expansion with infrastructure upgrades," (June 6), SoVernet needs to publish the maps of precisely where their (grant funded) fiber now reaches, how many lit strands are in use, how many dark strands are available for lease to competitors for middle mile applications, and precisely what rates, terms and conditions will apply. This applies to VTel, FairPoint, Comcast, Level3, FirstLight and Velco as well.

Absent this level or transparency for network infrastructure, it is impossible for the Vermont Department of Public Service to begin to write a real 10 Year Telecommunications Plan or for the public to contribute meaningful comment on the drafts of that plan.

The fact that SoVerNet, FairPoint, Comcast and others appear to be in an arms race to cherry pick the ripe and ready fiber customers, while making no plans or commitments to achieve the statutory goals of 100:100 Mbps symmetric to every Vermont address by 2024, further undermines the possibilities of reaching that important goal.

Open Access to fiber facilities has been a goal in Vermont's statutes for more than a decade yet the DPS has consistently failed to flesh out in the Plan or in a Public Service Board rule-making proceeding exactly how this will work. Fiber owning telecommunications carriers are to make their infrastructure available for use by competitors in order to allow and encourage both cost and service area competition.

SoVerNet is charging $3,500 a month for a symmetric 1Gbps connection while VTel charges just $35 for the same speed. This makes no sense at all. Both companies received massive public subsidies to build this infrastructure.

Instead, our DPS, with the assistance of a complicit legislature, continues to promote a welfare model of ongoing public support for the incumbent telephone companies that refuse to serve all of the rural customers with fiber, or even reliable DSL, yet take tens of $Millions of public subsidies to maintain the status quo.

Absent a detailed and credible Ten Year Telecommunications Plan, detailing where our infrastructure is and is not, and how to finance municipal telecommunications districts, it will be impossible to reach the 2024 goal. Information industry jobs that require massive bandwidth will continue to locate elsewhere, along with our young people, leaving Vermont as a backwater of increasing taxes and diminishing opportunity.

Stephen Whitaker, Montpelier, June 7


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