Will another deadline to get Vermonters connected come and go? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Will another deadline to get Vermonters connected come and go?

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In a few weeks, Gov. Peter Shumlin will become the second Vermont governor to fall short on a pledge to make all of Vermont compatible with mobile phones and high-speed internet by the end of this year.

"Today I am proud to launch Connect Vermont, an initiative to deliver by 2013 my promise of high-speed internet access and cell service to every corner of our state," said Shumlin, D-Vermont, at his inauguration in 2011.

Ninety-nine percent of Vermont households can currently receive broadband service.

Vt. Secretary of Commerce and Community Development Lawrence Miller says the effort has transformed the state from one of the least connected in the country to one of the best-connected. But providing access for the final 1 percent, generally in remote locations, may take crews into 2015.

"If you're the Vermonter who's got the last project, that's the only date that matters to you," Miller said.

The universal cell service goal has been out of reach for some time, but a couple of weeks ago the governor denied initially setting the bar so high.

"I never promised cell service to Vermont because I knew we couldn't get that done by 2013 or '14," Shumlin said on Vermont Public Television.

"It's not surprising to me or my committee that didn't come through," said Rep. Michael Marcotte, R-Coventry.

Marcotte says the promise seemed impossibly lofty even at the time. He says a sped up approval process for cell towers is accelerating growth and should be continued, though Vermonters shouldn't expect four bars to become the norm soon.

"We're not going to be anywhere close to having ubiquitous service throughout the state on cell," Marcotte said.

The state has 296 approved cells, many attached to pre-existing structures; 25 more are in the works.

Miller says fast approval and strong communication with providers are the state's two strongest available options.

"We are wholly-reliant on those carriers performing," Miller said.

Between 2010 and 2012, residents added about 90,000 wireless subscribers. Administrators and legislators say that demand means they can't wait for every connection to be made before they start worrying about capacity, as well.

The state determines cellphone coverage by checking service along roadways. Analysis is currently underway to determine how this year's data compares to the baseline set in 2010.

Gov. Shumlin isn't the first to fall short on a self-imposed electronic communication deadline. In 2007, Gov. Douglas pledged Vermont would become the first E-state by 2010.

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