Archive for September 6th, 2012

Connect VT to Woodstock: You’re All Good Here…VTel To Install Fiber Trunk Line

ECFiber’s Dave Brown listens as Karen Marshall of Connect VT answers a question at a recent Woodstock Selectboard meeting

Connect VT’s Karen Marshall visited with the Woodstock Selectboard Tuesday evening to essentially reinforce the idea that Woodstock is adequately provisioned with broadband internet service used for internet and wireless communication via what she called a “legacy copper system”.

Marshall indicated the needs for State of Vermont connectivity monies are greater in places such as Orange County.

It was part of the continuing discussion over why the State of Vermont has not seen fit to provide monies for fiber optic installation to ECFiber Community Network.

Marshall defended the VTA decision to have Fairpoint Communications use penalty monies to provide broadband service to places without any internet access, “We’ve got to fund the underserved locations first.”

Citing State of Vermont statistics, Marshall said there were only five homes in Woodstock that do not have some kind of service and access to the internet.

Town Manager Phil Swanson took an active role in asking Marshall questions to explain differences between the capabilities for data transmission of copper versus fiber optic lines. He also point-blank asked if she had been part of the decision to deny a grant for ECFiber (which in a very round-about way answered “yes”)

The Selectboard heard details of “pushing” copper to its ultimate limits with hub fiber connections. Marshall acknowledged that the speed and ability of copper to carry data is a function of distance but defended it as perfectly adequate way to watch Netflix or provide for small business use. There was much discussion about getting fiber directly to the premises, known by the acronym FTTP, versus fiber connecting to an existing copper wire system.

A member of the board of East-Central Fiber Community Network, Irv Thomae, who is a representative from Norwich, attended the meeting and had a rebuttal for some of Marshall’s comments.

He posited this question as a way of explanation to the Selectboard, “Why is fiber all the way to the home or business premises important?”

Thomae said, “It’s not because people want to watch more Netflixs…or for people who want to Skype by video telephone. The reason it’s really important is for economic development.”

He added,” Vermonters don’t want to start businesses in office parks. We want to stay at home…(fiber is about) letting people work from home.”

He also noted that if we want young people who grow up in Vermont to actually come back to Vermont, “We have to infrastructure.” He said the costs for putting in a fiber optic network, are, over time, lower than “pushing” the limits of a copper legacy system.

Speaking about ECFiber’s succesful efforts in other communities, Thomae said that six towns: Chelsea, Vershire, Thetford, Strafford, Tunbridge and Norwich have been able to raise $1.3million dollars to construct their fiber optic network and the work should continue here.

Another option: Satellite Internet. Companies have been leafleting mailboxes in Woodstock. However, the small print is extensive.No guarantees, limited hours, etc.

Woodstock Early Bird had conjectured that the Woodstock Selectboard might simply propose to spend money to construct a fiber optic network for the Town (if supported by voters). However, we have learned that this is not possible due to a law known as “Act 79”. It is a telecommunications law that prevents a town from investing money in telecommunications. Marshall noted that property owners cannot be asked to pay for such a system. The law was also created, in part, to protect municipality from indebtedness should a system fail.

When asked about supporting Woodstock in efforts to get on board with a fiber optic system, Marshall commented, “This mission doesn’t end. The reality is that our demand going up…It’s like chasing a rabbit.” She cited statistics that indicate globally the demand for internet traffic is likely to grow by four times by 2016, mostly due to demand for video usage.

In the meantime, what did become clear and apparent, is that the best hope for fiber optic connectivity in Woodstock may be coming sooner rather than later not from the State of Vermont, not from Comcast, not from Fairpoint Communications, but from VTel.

VTel’s Director of Marketing Sharon Combes-Farr told the Selectboard that VTel is putting in the FTTP lines in this area *although not Woodstock itself* but is planning to run a fiber optic “trunk line” through Woodstock that could provide both the Norman Williams Public Library and the Woodstock Elementary School with full access to this optimum connectivity option.

Representatives from ECFiber say the VTel line is also known as a “middle-mile” section for carrying data.

ECFiber notes the fact that VTel is investing in fiber -to -the -home (or premises) technology in this area (Hartland and Bridgewater and the trunk line in Woodstock) is “our biggest confirmation that FTTH is the future.”