New policy would expand telecom services

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(Host) The Douglas Administration has unveiled a new telecommunications policy that calls for a significant expansion of cell phone and broad band services throughout the state in the next three years. The governor says the plan is needed to help stimulate economic development efforts in Vermont.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The goals of the plan are very straightforward. The Administration wants to expand wireless phone coverage so that good service is available along all of the state’s major highways by 2007 – officials say that currently, reliable coverage is available on about 60% of Vermont’s main traffic routes. The proposal also calls for broadband services to be available to 90% of the state’s homes and businesses in three years and 100% coverage by 2010.

Douglas says it’s critical for the state to develop a comprehensive telecommunications infrastructure as soon as possible.

(Douglas) “The global economy is fueled by bits and bytes carried across a vast telecommunications infrastructure and in the support of the industry of the next generation Vermont needs an infrastructure of the 21st century both in public works and telecommunications sometimes it seems that the information superhighway has detoured Vermont but I refuse to let this continue in order for our state to be competitive we need to be able to communicate anywhere anytime in short we need to wire Vermont.”

(Kinzel) Public Service Department commissioner David O’Brien says there’s no doubt that the goals for wireless phone coverage can be achieved only if many more relay antennas are installed throughout the state:

(O’Brien) “I’m thankful to see that the wireless companies have gotten pretty adaptive and flexible in terms of siting antennas in a lot of different creative places that have made it possible but without question we’re going to need more antennas locations a more robust signal transfer and more reliable signal transfer ..we’re trying to say with this plan is we’re trying to take that first step in a long journey in saying that the status quo where in today is no longer acceptable.”

(Kinzel) The draft plan makes tax credits available to companies that accelerate their timetables to expand cell phone and broadband coverage throughout the state. The Public Service Department plans to hold public hearings on the proposal next month.

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

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