ADDISON COUNTY — FairPoint Communications plans to bring full broadband Internet coverage to Middlebury, Salisbury and Vergennes by the end of 2010, marking the complete coverage of high-speed Internet access for all of Addison County.
The other two telephone and Internet service providers in the county — Waitsfield Champlain Valley Telecom, which serves towns in the northern and eastern part of Addison County, and Shoreham Telephone, which serves towns in the southwest quadrant of the county — have already established full broadband access for their service areas.
Full coverage of the high-speed, or broadband, Internet access is good news for Addison County businesses, which will be able to take full advantage of the Internet’s capabilities. Faster service can mean more productivity, access to more customers and services, better jobs, and opportunities for telecommuting.
According to the Benton Foundation, a private foundation that works to ensure that media and technology serve the public interest, universal broadband access in the United States could lead to an estimated $500 billion in economic growth and the creation of more than 1.2 million high-way jobs.
The connections, which are significantly faster than traditional dial-up services, are also good news for consumers, who can take advantage of music and video streaming online, faster downloads, better connections to family and friends and potentially a more informed electorate.
The completion of broadband service by FairPoint will begin with local telephone numbers that begin with the following prefixes: 382, 388 and 443 in Middlebury; 352 in Salisbury; 877 in Vergennes; and in nearby Rutland County, 247 in Brandon. Goshen is also slated for broadband improvements, according to FairPoint spokeswoman Beth Fastiggi.
According to FairPoint, it made broadband service available in Leicester and Ripton, as well as two remote neighborhoods in Salisbury, earlier this year.
The three towns FairPoint last week said it will provide broadband access to are among 51 telephone exchanges in all 14 Vermont counties that FairPoint has tapped to receive blanket broadband access over the course of the next two years. The company acquired 99 exchanges in all in late March, when they bought Verizon’s wireline service in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
The improvements will feature digital subscriber line (DSL) technology, which runs a digital signal over a user’s telephone, as well as “WiMax,” a new technology FairPoint is promoting. WiMax is a wireless Internet technology that sends information via a fiber cable to an antenna, which beams a radio wave signal to a user’s home.
FairPoint is also building a “next generation” IP — “Internet Protocol” — network that the company says will be the foundation for supporting applications like virtual private networking for business customers, Internet2 for higher education as well as residential television and high-speed Internet.
According to Fastiggi, the Charlotte, N.C.-based company has budgeted $150 million in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to upgrade its network. In a FairPoint press release put out last week, Vermont Gov. James Douglas said these upgrades are an important contribution to his e-State Initiative, a plan to make Vermont the first state with universal access to cellular and high-speed broadband technology.
“Increasing access to high-speed broadband is strengthening our economy, creating jobs and encouraging innovation. This new infrastructure is the platform for growth and job creation across every sector of our economy,” said Douglas in the release.
At Shoreham Telephone, which serves around 3,400 households, President Don Arnold said that the company is still invested in improving access — but that they’re focusing on DSL technology exclusively. Arnold explained that the telephone company is installing “more and more remote cabinets” — small, refrigerator-sized boxes that store fiber loops and other broadband remote equipment scattered throughout their coverage areas.
These remote systems mean users can run shorter digital lines to their houses.
“Getting a shorter line is good for both speed and reliability,” Arnold explained.
Reliability, particularly for DSL lines, is always a challenge, but Arnold said improvements are being made.
“We started pretty early,” said Arnold, who said he believed Verizon hadn’t offered DSL service in many places because of its difficulties getting a handle on the technology. “We tried to strike a balance between reliability and what people wanted.”