Verizon closer to full service in southern Vt.

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Monday, November 19
ARLINGTON -- Verizon Wireless will provide full digital cellular telephone service to much of Bennington County by the end of the year after several new cell towers are switched on.

Brian Sullivan, an attorney representing Verizon Wireless, told the Bennington County Regional Commission Thursday evening that the company has received permits to install a "chain of cell sites" along the Route 7 corridor from Williamstown, Mass., to Mt. Tabor.

The towers will provide full service to Verizon Wireless customers that are currently roaming on the company's "extended network" that utilizes the networks of competing companies, Sullivan said.

"We've been doing a fair amount of permitting in Bennington County over the past few years," Sullivan said. "We have at this point built all but two. One of them is in Pownal that is being installed right now and the one in Sunderland is in construction. All of the others are finished or about to be finished."

Sullivan said Verizon Wireless will activate 12 cell towers in Vermont by the end of December, which will provide continuous digital cell service from Rutland County south to the Massachusetts border.

"If you're a Verizon Wireless customer you will have Verizon Wireless service in pretty much all of the Route 7 corridor. There is some east/west coverage as well," he said.

But Sandy Carter, regulatory manager for Verizon Wireless, said some dead areas are likely to occur still.

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"You may have shadowing and that can even occur with our 107-foot trees," Carter said.

Sullivan said the company will soon begin to cover secondary road areas as well, such as Route 30 in Manchester.

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"Once you get this backbone of service there's going to be demand for service in other places as well," Sullivan said.

The first planned expansion will be along Route 9 between Bennington and Brattleboro, however, he said.

"We're going to go from Brattleboro on Route 9 and Bennington on Route 9 and try to link them," Sullivan said.

One cell tower already exists in Woodford on Prospect Mountain that is owned by U.S. Cellular, Sullivan said. Verizon Wireless intends to lease space on that tower, but will also need to find sites for more towers.

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"Because of the topography along Route 9 we will probably have to find two or three other sites as well," Sullivan said.

Carter said the towers will provide digital service for telephones but will not immediately provide a wireless broadband Internet connection. She said such a connection would be available in the "near future" but said she could not specify a time frame.

Rep. Bill Botzow, D-Woodford/Pownal, who worked to create a telecom bill that became law earlier this year, said he was not satisfied yet with Verizon Wireless' infrastructure in the state.

"It's an evolving technology world and it would be best if Vermont were in front of the pack instead of behind," Botzow said. "We've got a long way to go and I'm not satisfied. I find the way you answer these questions a bit vague. Do you have a plan? It's sort of like, 'well, when we get around to it.'"

But Carter said the company has invested heavily in the state over the past few years and will continue to do so. Each cell tower installed costs the company about $1 million, she said.

"Prior to 2002 or 2003 we did not have a license at all. We acquired a license from the FCC and we started to plan a system," Carter said. "Between then and now I think we've accomplished a lot.


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