MontpelierNet offers wireless high-speed access to the capital city

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(Host) A public-private partnership was launched in Montpelier Friday that makes the city one of the first state capitals in the country to develop a wireless high-speed Internet system. It will be available to both businesses and residents in the city. Backers of the project say it could serve as a model for the rest of the country.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The project, known as Montpelier Net, will be rolled out in three phases. The first phase has just been started – it creates a wireless zone around City Hall in Montpelier.

The second phase will make wireless Internet service available to businesses in the center of town. Organizers hope to have this operation up and running by the end of the July. The third phase will expand these services to residential communities throughout the city.

Several large antennas located on hillsides in the city will beam the wireless signal throughout Montpelier. Jack Hoffman is the director of the Vermont Broadband Council, a group that has played a critical role in bringing this project from the drawing board to reality:

(Hoffman) “We hope this will be a model to take to other parts of the state and other communities. If we can make the state capital a showcase for this technology, I think it’ll go a long way to promote the expansion of this essential service throughout the state.”

(Kinzel) Hoffman says one of the great benefits of this project is the flexibility that wireless services provide to businesses and residents. He says it could reduce costs by as much as 50 percent when compared to wired systems.

(Hoffman) “The real savings, I think, for wireless is that you avoid some infrastructure costs. It’s just much cheaper to send that signal wirelessly instead of running wires to all these places.”

(Kinzel) Montpelier Mayor Mary Hooper thinks the project will help stimulate economic development activities in the city.

(Hooper) “I’m convinced that high-speed Internet and the opportunities that broadband brings to Montpelier is our future, that it will strengthen our existing industries. It will bring in new industry and it’ll bring a new generation of investors into our community.”

(Kinzel) Organizers of MontpelierNet say they don’t consider themselves to be direct competition with private companies offering Internet services because these private firms will be allowed to bid for the contract to help operate the city system.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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