Vershire residents upset over broadband upgrade - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vershire residents upset over broadband upgrade

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Vershire, a small town of about 700 in Southeastern Vermont, tops the state's priority list for expanding broadband coverage. State data indicates only about 30 percent of residents have high-speed Internet access.

"I've traveled all over the world. Pretty much everywhere in India has better phone coverage, better Internet service than we do right here," said Kathy Hooke, a local resident.

Fairpoint Communications currently provides phone service since taking over for Verizon's coverage a few years ago. Company officials have promised upgraded lines and the introduction of high-speed access for the bulk of residents.

But Saturday, at a small protest in town, about two-dozen community members told Fairpoint officials on hand that they're frustrated with the company's dropped land-line calls, slow repair and response times, as well as its upgrade plan.

"We are not interested in having a provider string high-speed Internet up 113 and not serve our dirt roads," Hooke said.

Fairpoint officials say it's unnecessary to extend top-of-the-line connections from roadside, fiber-connected terminals, directly to every home. Instead -- relying on upgraded copper lines.
State regulators say using all fiber would be expensive, with costs reaching as high as 13-thousand dollars a unit.

FairPoint representatives at Saturday's meeting say they'll do everything they can to address residents' concerns.  "I hope they can keep an open mind too, as everybody struggles to work out the compromise and how we're going to get everyone connected," said the company's Sabina Haskell. "Fairpoint's put almost 90 million dollars into the state, bringing broadband into the state, bringing broadband all over the state. We've put 1,100 miles of new fiber all across the state in the last three years."

Vershire, frustrated with the pace of improvements, wants not just new wire, but a new provider. They've raised more than a quarter-million dollars and want to pair with ECFiber to run top-end cable everywhere in town. State grants could cover the additional four to 600 -thousand that will be needed to make the vision a reality. But state regulations prevent that from happening, unless FairPoint redirects penalty fees meant for broadband development elsewhere.

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