Report: 13% of Vermonters can't get high-speed internet

DERBY, Vt. (WCAX) A new report says about 13% of Vermonters can't get high-speed internet at their homes and that there is no funding available to get them up to speed in the immediate future.

A simple internet search at Thom Goodwin's house in Derby isn't always simple. An attempt to Google the words "German shepherd" left him with a spinning wheel. He says he's got two modems with Consolidated Communications to get internet and that he switches back and forth.

"I spend a lot of time resetting modems," Goodwin said. If he's lucky one of them works -- until it doesn't. it'll work for like an hour and then it doesn't again. And then it works for a week without a problem. And then it doesn't."

He's describing what many rural Vermont residents deal with each day. They can't get high-speed internet, which makes living in digital age difficult. "I'm not done with work when I get home. I need to be able to check my email or maybe Google something and when it works it's great. And when it doesn't work, I'm holding someone else up because I'm not able to respond," Goodwin said.

Goodwin is one of the 81,000 or so people in Vermont who according to a new report, still cannot get broadband service where they live. And according to that same report, getting service to all of them could cost $284 million.

"That's a sizeable chunk of change," said Department of Public Service Commissoner June Tierney. She says the study confirmed what they already knew -- expecting Vermont's electric utilities to be able to bring broadband service to customers would require significant monetary investments. She says it also gave them confidence that the route the department is taking to help communities access funding themselves is the right way to go.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: What's the message from the department to people who feel like they have no options if they want to live in a digital age?
June Tierney: I think the question that folks have to ask themselves are -- what are my expectations for where they live?

"The department cannot say 'we have the money, we're going to put $284 million on the table and get it done.' I'd love that but that's not the reality," Tierney said.

"You get dependent on an electronic world," Goodwin said. He says he welcomes any new options, but isn't seeing any from providers in his area anytime soon. "Every six months or so I say, 'Hey, you got any faster internet for me yet? Mmmmm nope.'"

Several WCAX viewers from rural areas pointed out that it's difficult to attract new residents when people expect to be able to stream video at home, do online banking, or use social media. They say if the state is serious about drawing people to rural Vermont, they need to find a solution.