The vast vistas and rolling hills of the Green Mountains are considered by many one of Vermont's greatest assets, but they're also the state's greatest obstacle.
"We're behind Bosnia, we're behind Croatia, we're behind Vietnam and we're behind most of the 49 states," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.
Shumlin is talking about what he calls a connectivity deficit. Wednesday he promised to bring Vermont up to speed with statewide broadband service.
"We are bound and determined to make the 2013 deadline and we will-- December 31, 2013," Shumlin said.
A new tower in Plainfield connects another 4,000 potential broadband customers. The Plainfield project alone cost $500,000, it includes a $240,000 federal grant to the Vermont Telecommunications Authority. By the end of 2013 Shumlin says the price tag for broadband will be upward of $410 million. The price has proven to be a hurdle to progress.
"Rural Vermont is in jeopardy. The most isolated places have lost youth, they've lost entrepreneurial energy," said Paul Costello of the Vermont Council on Rural Development.
Connectivity is a promise Vermonters have heard time and again, first by the Douglas administration, that broadband would be delivered by the year 2010. Currently 20,000 Vermonters remain unserved statewide.
"If you're that last guy at the end of the dirt road you're saying 'how am I going to stay here? How can I work from home?' There's still a lot of frustration," Costello said.
Costello says it's the same predicament Vermont faced in the 1930s when businesses were reluctant to provide electricity to rural areas of Vermont. He says he's pleased the state is making this a priority.
"We're coming from a place of strength on this and we've got to take it to the next level and seize every opportunity by we should do so with confidence," Costello said.
Hoping to close the digital divide that lies in the peaks and valleys of rural Vermont.
Lawmakers say legislation that streamlines the environmental permitting process helped speed up building this tower in Plainfield, without which the town would have had to apply for a rezoning permit which could take up to a full year.
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