State Wants Public’s Help In Improving Broadband

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(Host) The Shumlin Administration has set a goal of delivering broadband Internet service to all corners of the state by 2013. And to meet that challenge, state government has asked the public for help. VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) He may be the state’s chief executive, but when it comes to getting broadband service to his home on a dirt road in Putney, Peter Shumlin is just another customer waiting in line for bandwidth.

That’s what the governor learned when he typed his address into a new website that shows coverage areas supposedly provided by Internet providers.

(Shumlin) "It indicated that my house has DSL. That is news to me and my teenage daughters. We have a copper line. We have a very slow satellite system. We do not have DSL."

(Dillon) Although the information turned out to be wrong, Shumlin says the mistake actually has value because it helped pinpoint another under-served area. And he’s asking the public to help focus and fact-check the state’s multi-year, multi-million dollar effort to roll out broadband.

In internet terms, it’s known as crowd-sourcing. And in this case, the crowd is the Vermont public.

(Shumlin) "If we can’t get the data right, we can’t get the service right. So we’re asking for your help today, Vermonters. Go to and check and see if the service that we think you have is the service that you really have. And then there’s an interactive system by which you tell us the truth."

(Dillon) Karen Marshall is chief of ConnectVt, the administration’s program to roll out universal broadband and cell phone coverage by the end of 2013. Marshall says about 85 percent of the state is supposedly now served by some form of broadband. But that number may not be accurate, as the governor’s experience shows.

(Marshall) "Each provider kind of reports their data differently, they have different standards. So if we said 85 percent was probably 85 percent reliable, that probably gives us the number somewhere around 64-65 percent in terms of accuracy. So it’s a pretty big job."

(Dillon) The new website cost about $80-thousand dollars to develop, and was paid for with federal stimulus funds. It encourages people to report if their home or business address has high speed Internet. That information will be entered into the state’s database and used to target under-served areas.

But what good is an interactive web site if you can’t get on-line? The site shows public Internet access points, including libraries and community centers. And it’s designed to work with slow-speed, dial-up lines. But if all else fails, the governor says: pick up the phone.

(Shumlin) "If you call, we will deal. We need to get this right."

(Dillon) Shumlin says the goal of ‘broadband-to-all’ is achievable by the end of 2013. The new website will be updated frequently to show what areas of the state have service.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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