(Host) Several Vermont power companies say they’re looking at the possibility of offering broadband Internet service to their customers. The Federal Communications Commission recently adopted rules clearing the way for utilities to expand their operations in this way.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Although some technical issues still need to be resolved, there’s a good possibility that in the not too distant future, some Vermonters may be able to receive broadband Internet service from the company that provides them with electricity. The broadband service is delivered through existing power lines and the technology uses a special modem that plugs directly into electrical outlets.
The FCC action is being viewed as an important step in bringing broadband service to the more rural parts of the country – areas that are being ignored now because there aren’t enough customers to make the venture cost effective.
The state’s largest utility, the Central Vermont Public Service Corporation is actively investigating this new technology. CVPS spokesperson Steve Costello:
(Costello) “Anything we can do that can help spread our costs or produce new revenues without having to go traditional routes to do that has some appeal to us. So we definitely will be looking at this very closely and following what some of the larger utilities are doing.”
(Kinzel) The issue is also on the front burner at the Washington Electric Co-op. Co-op president Avram Patt says he’s closely watching a pilot program that’s been launched by a Co-op in Virginia.
(Patt) “The Co-op is interested because, first of all, we have a lot of members calling and contacting us unsolicited asking when are we going to get broadband out here in the boonies and can the Co-op do anything about it. So people are in fact looking to their co-op to see if we can play a role in this. We own the infrastructure – Washington Electric Co-op owns over 1,200 miles of power lines. So if that facility which is in 41 towns can be used to get broadband to our members – many of whom are starting to ask for it – we’d like to play a role.”
(Kinzel) Vermont’s second largest utility, Green Mountain Power has no interest in getting into the broadband Internet business. GMP spokesperson Dotti Schnure says the company wants to concentrate on its core business of providing electric power to its customers.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.