Telecommunications Authority says it will meet its target

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(Host) A new state authority charged with expanding high speed internet and cell phone coverage has just started its work, but its chairwoman says it will meet the goal of bringing the services to all Vermonters in just over three years.

Lawmakers created the group last year. It was given the ability to issue 40 million dollars worth of bonds to improve access to the internet and to cell phone networks.

Speaking on Vermont Edition today, Mary Evslin of the state telecommunications authority says the group is just beginning to gather information on broadband and cell phone service already put in place by existing ISPs – or internet service providers.

(Evslin) "We need to find out where its not. Where the carriers are willing to be stretched to go a little bit further, where the local ISPs and WISPs are willing to go if we can help them. We need to put together incentive packages, one of which is some of that money."

(Host) Evslin says the work of the authority is being done right now by an all volunteer board. The group is in the process of hiring an executive director. It’s scheduled to submit a detailed plan to the legislature by January 1st.

Meanwhile, citizens in towns across the state having been taking it upon themselves to build small broadband networks.

One of the latest plans involves 14 central Vermont towns. Residents plan to work with Burlington Telecom to provide a high speed, fiber optic connection to largely rural areas that have no broadband service.

Janet Zug of Tunbridge is a member of the group, called the East Central Fiber Network.

(Zug) "At this point we’re look at a couple of years, December of 2009 for hooking up the first customer. There’s a lot to be done before then. First we’re working to tell the customers, the community about the project, how it actually works, how it would be funded. Then we have to work up the contracts with Burlington Telecom."

(Host) Expansion of cell phone and broadband service to all corners of the state is a priority, largely because the technology has become increasingly important for economic growth.

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