A. TDS/Internet Service: Scott Brooks, TDS Manager, State Government Affairs for the four state region, was on hand to discuss telecommunications in Cavendish. Because he had been the manager for the TDS Ludlow office, he is very aware of the situation here and admitted that the Tarbell Hill area is the only place in Vermont TDS market without DSL.
The reasons for the poor service in Cavendish outlined by Brooks are similar to what was reported in Cavendish Telecommunications: Why there is such a problem: end of governmental funds for landline carriers; under estimating the future demand for Internet service; and loss of market share due to cell technology and competition.
Because Cavendish is such a small part of the TDS market, it’s not a priority for the company as they favor areas with larger customer bases, which yield a quicker return on investment. That noted, Brooks indicated that they have looked into fiber for Cavendish and it would cost about $2.1 million, or roughly $3,500 per household. In order to make this a more viable investment opportunity for TDS, the cost needs to be closer to $1,500 per household.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the last few weeks has changed what constitutes high speed broadband. The old definition set a standard of 4 megabits per second (Mbps) download and an upload speed of 1 Mbps, or 4/1. The new FCC standard is a significant jump – to speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 up, or 25/3. With the significant changes in how much people use the Internet for all aspects of communication as well as entertainment, the new standard will not remain a constant for long. As has been noted before, the only true technology that will meet the growing demand for Internet is fiber optics.
Brooks pointed out some difficulties with an all fiber optic system. With the copper system, if power fails, you can still have a dial tone and 911 remains functional. With fiber only, a dial tone is lost after about eight hours, thereby creating issues in emergent situations. As the all fiber systems are replacing copper, the latter are not being maintained. While this may not be an initial problem, in time it could be since, as was found in the recent Cavendish Telecommunications Survey, cell service is very poor in many parts of the town.
In 2009, 2010, when the government was giving out stimulus money for broadband, while TDS applied for these funds and received them for other market shares, they did not meet the criteria for our area.
In the past legislative session, Vermont passed Act 190 and on February 4 the VT Dept. of Public Service issued their first request for proposals under the new Connectivity Initiative. The RFP invites Internet Service Providers to submit proposals to serve locations identified by the Department as needing improved access to broadband Internet service. The Department will award grants to organizations willing to serve these areas. The Department will utilize up to $963,350.00 in available funding to support the extension of broadband facilities in underserved communities. Press Release Rich Svec, town manager, gave information to Brooks about this new round of funding and stated that the town would provide letters of support if they wish to respond to this RFP.
Brooks brought up the idea of a municipal private contract with TDS. In other words the town would work with TDS to help secure the funding to set up a town wide fiber optic system. This is being done around the world, and in many parts of the U.S., resulting in much better service, and lower costs. In Vermont, EC Fiber is trying to do something similar. The advantage of TDS over EC Fiber for Cavendish is that installation would be cheaper, as TDS owns the lines, has considerable experience in setting up the service and doing repairs when required.
There was also a discussion about whether the FCC would regulate the Internet much as a as it does the phone. There are strong feelings on both sides and it’s worth reading the Statement of the FCC Commissioner on President Obama’s Plan to Regulate the Internet to help understand the pros and cons. If the Internet were to be treated as utility there is the potential that fiber optics to the home would be “jump started” much as the Rural Electrification Act of the 1930s help to wire rural America.
As far as upcoming improvements, Brooks said that Proctorsville and Perkinsville, which share an OC3 line (bandwidth), will soon have their own lines, which will improve speeds. However, this will not be noticed in the outer areas, such as Twenty Mile Stream.
Brooks discussed some stopgap measures that could be done to significantly improve services in the Twenty Mile Stream and Brook Rd areas. However, these would be costly upgrades and the concern then becomes is that “good enough” and further delays fiber optics being installed town wide?
B. Town Report: The Annual Town Report is now at the printers and will be available to voters meeting the 10 days prior to town meeting requirement.
C. CCCA Informational Forum: The CCCA will once again hold a Pre town meeting at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 24th at the Town Office.
D. Rescheduling of Solar Array Dedication: Due to weather, the dedication of the Solar Array was postponed to April 20 (Monday), which is part of Earth Week.
E. Roads & Bridges
• 131 Repaving: Originally scheduled for this summer, route 131 is to be repaved from the intersection of 131 and 106 to the intersection of 131 and 103 (from Downer’s 4 Corners to The Castle). This has been postponed until 2017 as engineering work is needed to correct problems in various locations, including drainage issues in both villages.
• Depot Street Bridge: The replacement of the Depot Street Bridge in Proctorsville is still a priority for the state.
F. Ballantine Animal Fund: A special fund was approved by the board to help with the costs of veterinary bills and other expenses relating to the care of animals that fall under the care of the Cavendish Animal Control Officer. Named in honor of Jim Ballantine, who loved animals and all things Cavendish, contributions can be made to to the Ballantine Animal Fund and mailed to the Cavendish Town Office, PO Box 126, Cavendish, VT 05142. The town manager and the Animal Control Officer will administer the fund. FMI: 226-7292