VTel hopes to cover all of Putney this summer


PUTNEY -- Telecommunication officials from throughout the state came out to Putney Wednesday night to try to answer questions from a group of homeowners who are still waiting for broadband service.

About a dozen people showed up for the meeting, most of whom live along or off of West Hill Road and Dusty Ridge Road where high speed Internet service is not available.

Officials from VTel said they are close to finishing work on four towers which they said will service the entire town of Putney with wireless high speed service.

VTel Vice President Diane Guité said the company hopes to have the service available to all of Putney some time during the summer.

The technology, she said, is being introduced in other parts of Vermont and she said the company is reasonably certain that the wireless signals will extend across the area.

However, she warned that the technology is relatively new and there could be surprises.

"Based on the software, we will be able to cover the entire town," Guité said. "Wireless is pretty good, but it's not a perfect solution."

Guité said the company was still trying to determine the cost of the service.

Putney resident Billy Straus said he was weary of investing in the equipment needed to pull in the broadband, only to have his rates increase after the first few months.

And Putney resident Richard Glejzer said he was also concerned about the wireless technology being able to meet the needs of customers.

"Bandwidth usage goes up exponentially," he said. "Over time, as the requirements of the Internet require more and more bandwidth just to do what we're doing now, that the technology will keep up with that, and all of us will always be on a metered service, are going to able to keep pace with that."

Guité said it was hard for VTel to know how the usage would affect the signals and how much the company would have to continue to invest to keep up.

Customers who receive service over a fiber optic connection are not worried about their usage and they pay a flat rate.

The wireless customers will be charged on their usage and Guité said the company did not know how the costs of the Putney project would play out.

She said she was not able to commit to a monthly rate even though the company has thousands of customers on its wired network, but said the rates would be set before the service is rolled out

"The wired community is a totally different beast than working through the costs associated with a wireless network," she said. "It requires a totally different operations strategy. We have to figure out what the operational structure is going to look like."

Fairpoint Communication Project Manager Chris Lillie said the company it has completed work on Black Locust Road, Hickory Ridge Road, Hog Farm Road and Tavern Hill.

And he said the company hopes to have the service available to homes on Windmill Hill South and Tavern Hill before the end of June.

"We're not a large company," he said. "We are building out as fast as we can, but it is very costly to do that."

The meeting was the first in a series of meetings planned for the upcoming few months to talk directly with people who are waiting for high speed Internet in their homes and businesses.

Vermont Public Service Department Telecommunications Director Jim Porter said he has received a large number of calls for the Putney area and so the meeting was called to address the concerns.

Porter said the department gathers information on what services are available, but that information is private and can not be published.

So Porter said he and DPS staff are calling the meetings to meet directly with Vermonters who still don't have broadband service and want to know how soon they might be able to get service.

"A lot of people don't know what service is available to them," Porter said. "This was our first meeting, and we've already set up one more and we've had a request for another. We can tell people what they have today and what is coming to their address."

Porter said he hopes companies continue to build out their facilities to reach those home owners in the most rural areas of the state.

And he said even after everyone has high speed service the state is going to have to continue working to maintain the service and keep it up to date.

"Where there's dense populations companies are falling over each other," Porter said. "It's going to be the rural areas that are going to be the challenge. The challenge is going to be keeping the upper speed requirements that we need in the rural areas."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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