As of yesterday, every Finn has the legal right to 1Mbps broadband connections to the Internet. Bully for them!
I've long wondered why the United States, originator of the Internet, early adopter of e-commerce, in the top tier of Internet usage and e-government development, never aggressively invested in broadband deployment. It would fit our tradition of universal service going back to the Rural Electrification Act and Communications Act of 1934 and even the Constitutional mandate to establish post offices and postal roads.
As it stands, we're still on dialup on Bog Road (as are 20% of our fellow Vermonters). Yes, there is a "high speed" satellite option, but the bandwidth is paltry compared to DSL and cable technologies, extremely expensive in absolute and relative terms, and customer service is arguably worse than even your most horrific Comcast stories. So if I need to upload any large files to my e-learning sites, for example, I have to run out to someplace like Cosmic Cafe in St Albans where I can grab some free WiFi.
Vermont's coverage is actually surprisingly good, but there are still scores of communities that have little or no access to highspeed connectivity. Our fortunes do seem to be changing as President Obama announced today almost a billion dollars in grants to foster greater broadband deployment. Vermont nabbed $45M of that:
Vermont Telecommunications Authority estimates that it will directly create hundreds of jobs with its project to build a 790-mile fiber network across Vermont with it's $33.4 million grant. Over 200,000 people and thousands of businesses and community institutions stand to benefit from increasing access to direct high-speed connections. In addition to the jobs this project creates upfront, it will help drive economic development in the community that creates jobs for years to come.
Vermont Telephone Company's project, assisted by $12.3 million in federal funds, will enhance the existing middle mile broadband infrastructure to address bandwidth and transport capacity shortages. The project stands to benefit over 150,000 people and over 15,000 businesses and community institutions. Not only will this project create jobs upfront, but it will help drive economic development in the community that will create jobs for years to come.
350k people? Hopefully we'll get a piece of that action in Fletcher, Fairfield and St Albans Town. After years of promises not met by the State and companies like Fairpoint, I am guardedly optimistic.