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Vt. telecommunications firm launches rural networks - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. telecommunications firm launches rural networks

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HARDWICK, Vt. -

When it comes to high-speed broadband internet access, rural towns like Hardwick have fallen behind. Cindy Koutny moved here 15 years ago.

"It was very slow. You couldn't even game. It would be very scattered gaming. And then FairPoint finally connected some DSL to us. But DSL was slow. Just really slow," Koutny said.

But with a quick snip of the scissors Tuesday, that is changing. VTel, a Springfield-based phone and internet company, turned on 12 wireless towers in rural regions of the state.

"It's the official wireless launch of our wireless network. So, today we are flipping the switch to reach 20,000 Vermont homes and businesses over wireless broadband," said Diane Guité of VTel.

Gov. Peter Shumlin was on hand for the celebration, along with Sen. Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch. More than $100 million in stimulus money helped make the project possible, though the majority of that money is for fiber to 16,000 homes in Southern Vermont. And while the state did not meet Governor Shumlin's goal of broadband access to every corner of Vermont by the end of 2013, the governor says the Green Mountain State is getting there.

"Obviously some of it has taken long than we thought but we now have solutions. We have 99 percent of Vermont hooked up. We've got solutions for all of the other Vermonters and we are going to get this done," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Officials say high-speed access is crucial for jobs and economic development. And those signing on the new wireless service agree.

"All of a sudden I can get things quickly; I couldn't do that before. Suddenly I can actually download a movie; I couldn't do that before," Koutny said.

The perks of higher speeds that residents in this town and many others now have access to.

VTel has already connected fiber to 4,000 homes in Southern Vermont. The goal is to have all 16,000 online by June 2015.

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