Halifax reaches 'milestone' with broadband

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HALIFAX — Wireless broadband is here.

"While we're wondering once final deployment is made whether there will be little patches or gaps the technology can't reach, we still ought to take time and say we reached a milestone," said Edee Edwards, Select Board and Broadband Committee member.

Federal funding for the Vermont Telephone Company project was approved in 2010 but the grant was extended to this year. The committee had also looked at other ways of getting high speed Internet to more homes and businesses. Members talked with different providers and the Vermont Telecommunications Authority.

VTel President Michel Guite said the Halifax tower is one of 150 sites the company has set up.

"It is up and working and performing," he said. "We're testing the tower."

Some of the network's services are not yet available in Halifax but wireless Internet is reportedly working. Interested residents can call VTel at 802-885-4444. The size of equipment for each home or business will depend on signal strength.

Until the network in Halifax is completely ready, VTel will hold off on press releases or announcements.

"We think voice is an absolutely essential part of the service and the voice piece isn't fully developed," Guite said. "The last thing we want is to have services introduced that aren't working well."

It is really important to perform thorough network testing, Guite said, pointing out that customers want other components besides wireless Internet. Voice and video technology can be more demanding to implement.

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"You don't want to be out there talking about those things if you can't really do them well," said Guite.

But in Halifax, there has been a cry for high speed Internet.

"We sure wish we had known as soon as we were able to sign up," said Edwards, who helped see a local press release get issued on the town's website and Front Porch Forum. "At the Whitingham Farmers' Market, there was a lot of excitement. People talking to neighbors who are vendors or buyers."

Parts of town still may not get the service. Meter readings are used for telling what kind of equipment will be needed. And nearby towers — recently set up in Marlboro and Whitingham — may be where some Halifax residents' service is coming from.

During the next Broadband Committee meeting on Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m., Edwards hopes to get an update from those who are using the service.

"They can tell us more about how it's working for them, maybe have a little celebration. The committee has been watching and observing this grant and been involved in the permit process. This is intended to be the last mile solution here in Halifax," said Edwards, referring to the statewide initiative to get high speed Internet to underserved areas. "Let's take a minute to celebrate."

According to Edwards, the news should help with real estate values as the service is important for business and education. And people are using it more and more for getting their news.

"For some people, this may be the only choice," Edwards added. "For others, this might be a competitive landscape to look at and they can look at what's best for them."

Contact Chris Mays at benningtonbanner.com or 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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