Business & Economy

VTel celebrates first wireless broadband towers

VTel vice-president Diane Guité speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Hardwick. (Right to left:) Her father, VTel president Michel Guité, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., Gov. Peter Shumlin and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., look on. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger
VTel vice-president Diane Guité speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Hardwick. Her father (from right), VTel president Michel Guité, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., Gov. Peter Shumlin and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., look on. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger
HARDWICK — Sprint has figured out a way to compete with telecommunications giants AT&T and Verizon, and Vermont is one of the first testing grounds for new technology sparked by the rivalry.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday afternoon in Hardwick, VTel announced the launch of a new service that taps Sprint’s broadband spectrum and purchasing power to deliver high-speed Internet service through the air — as opposed to conventional distribution through copper or fiber optic cables.

Wireless isn’t as fast as fiber, but wireless speeds are better than other technologies, VTel representatives said. Traditional DSL service generally doesn’t reach beyond 15 Mbps for downloads.

New wireless broadband technology can reach 50 Mbps download speeds — though it typically averages closer to 30 Mbps due to network congestion, proximity to towers and other factors. Uploading is generally pegged at one-third or one-quarter of the download speeds.

VTel, a local carrier of phone, television and Internet services, owns both fiber optic and 4G-LTE wireless networks. Through its new voice-over LTE phone service, VTel is continuing its push into the wireless data market.

For VTel, Tuesday’s ceremony was a benchmark toward fulfilling the requirements of a $116 million Rural Utilities Service grant and loan the company received in 2010.

The deadline for was December 2013. Guité said VTel was not alone among rural service providers nationwide who couldn’t deliver their services in time. The deadline was later extended to June 2015, according to Diane Guite, the VTel vice president of business development.

The delay was acknowledged by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Gov. Peter Shumlin, who wielded ribbon-cutting scissors. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., was also on hand, as were an aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., and RUS assistant administrator Keith Adams.

“Progress has been a bit slower than we would like,” Leahy said. “But it’s paying dividends.”

Leahy and others underscored the crucial role high-speed Internet plays in business development, education, telemedicine and civic engagement.

Guité said the company’s buildout was slowed by many factors, including the complicated processes for locating towers and coordinating pole attachments with other telecom providers.

“No one really understood the magnitude of how complicated it would be,” Guité said.

She said she understands many Vermonters have been disappointed by delayed service improvements, but she thinks it’s been a “blessing in disguise” because the technology has come so far in the interim.

A representative demonstrates the power of wireless speeds that will be deployed in 2015: simultaneously streaming high-definition videos, teleconferencing and playing online video games without any wired Internet connections. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger
A representative demonstrates the power of wireless speeds that will be deployed in 2015: simultaneously streaming high-definition videos, teleconferencing and playing online video games without any wired Internet connections. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger
The grant was for only 1.5 Mbps speeds — a fraction of what VTel can deliver now. Guité said the technology is on track to become even faster before the end of the year.

Twelve towers are now online, serving all or most of 24 towns around Vermont. In the next year, 157 more towers will go up, Guité said — all told 40 of them financed by private dollars. The goal is to create a “wireless canopy” capable of beaming service over about 97 percent of rooftops in Vermont.

Some areas will receive broadband for the first time, while the service will introduce or add to competition in other places that have already been connected.

For Sprint, the partnership with a rural service provider tests its strategy for competing with telecom market leaders that command about twice the customer base. The coverage adds to Sprint’s market share, and carriers benefit from the economy of scale.

Sprint announced this spring that it would leverage partnerships with many small regional and rural carriers to grow its footprint. VTel is one of about a dozen rural providers nationwide Sprint has signed partnerships with.

VTel President Michel Guité said before partnering with Sprint, the company could not have accessed the technology that makes today’s wireless speeds possible.

In addition to the wireless buildout, the majority of VTel’s federal grant and loan was for residential fiber.

The Guités announced Tuesday that VTel has laid all of its planned fiber lines at the street level, and now is tackling the hard part: connecting houses.

They recently completed a 4,000th connection, but they have 12,000 more to go in the next year to meet grant requirements.

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  • Matt Fisken

    “No one really understood the magnitude of how complicated it would be”

    There were certainly a number of people who scratched their heads back in 2010 when a small wired broadband company covering a few towns was assigned the task to blanket the whole state with wireless in only three years. It is akin to asking Washington Electric Coop to provide electric heat pumps to everyone in Vermont, using federal funds. It simply does not make sense. To suggest VTel didn’t realize what they were getting into is disingenuous.

    There is certainly the question of how wise it was for the USDA to provide VTel with so much money.

    Then there’s the question of whether state officials looked the other way as VTel missed deadline after deadline, often refusing to collocate equipment on existing towers because of rent costs (somehow, building a brand new tower from scratch is cheaper?), then poached the government official charged with regulating them.

    The question I have raised a number of times, which is usually met by crickets, is: when the World Health Organization has recently raised concerns about the carcinogenicity of RF/MW radiation, this same radiation has been shown to disrupt the migration and health of wildlife such as birds and bees, and government research going back decades shows it is harmful to humans at sub-thermal levels, why would a conscientious, environmentally-minded, forward-thinking, compassionate state like Vermont that is putting the health of its citizens at the forefront by labeling GMOs, pushing for single payer, and protecting children from toxic chemicals make NO attempt protect us from this radiation?

    Is poor Vermont really so embarrassed to look this RUS gift horse in the mouth?

    Even if you aren’t blanketed by VTel’s service yet, you probably are being beamed by another wireless provider, a wireless smart meter, DECT, Wifi, and a host of other relatively novel radiation exposures to which we did not evolve and from which we have very little biological protection.

    Waiting for the industry to admit they are quite literally making a killing on this technology, like we did with tobacco, may take decades. By then, the wireless epidemic may not be reversible.

  • Annette Smith

    Some people get sick from exposure to wireless. This plan to blanket the state is another example of the insanity coming from above, inflicting technology on people without permission.

    I want to opt out of the wireless canopy. VTel is a wonderful phone company and I appreciate the excellent service they provide, but this wireless canopy threatens the health of people without providing any opportunity to have a say in whether or not someone’s home is included.

    Vermont needs to create some safe zones where people who cannot live with wireless can escape exposure. This is one really big, really bad experiment and it is folly to move forward with it.

    • rosemarie jackowski

      Annette… Yes, one of the nicest homes in Bennington has been unoccupied for the past couple of years. The owners became sick while living there. They recovered after they relocated. The house is across the street from a cell phone tower.

  • Ken McPherson

    Do cellular phone towers cause cancer? At this time, there is very little evidence to support this idea. In theory, there are some important points that would argue against cellular phone towers being able to cause cancer. Most scientists agree that cell phone antennas or towers are unlikely to cause cancer.
    The Reasons:
    “Some people have expressed concern that living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. First, the energy level of radiofrequency (RF) waves is relatively low, especially when compared with the types of radiation that are known to increase cancer risk, such as gamma rays, x-rays, and ultraviolet (UV) light. The energy of RF waves given off by cell phone towers is not enough to break chemical bonds in DNA molecules, which is how these stronger forms of radiation may lead to cancer.
    A second issue has to do with wavelength. RF waves have long wavelengths, which can only be concentrated to about an inch or two in size. This makes it unlikely that the energy from RF waves could be concentrated enough to affect individual cells in the body.
    Third, even if RF waves were somehow able to affect cells in the body at higher doses, the level of RF waves present at ground level is very low – well below the recommended limits. Levels of energy from RF waves near cell phone towers are not significantly different from the background levels of RF radiation in urban areas from other sources, such as radio and television broadcast stations.”
    This must be the rationalization of an industry spokesman who is trying to deflect questions, right? Actually, it’s the American Cancer Society.
    I understand that, by this time, no amount of consistent scientific research can slow the true believers. I simply hope that responding to their fear-mongering will lead others to do their own unbiased research and, hopefully, recognize that the skepticism that should surround their above statements should also be attached to their other comments on this site.
    Perhaps you will continue to trust their expertise over the critically and peer reviewed findings of some very intelligent researchers with years of experience. Before you decide, or as you continue your evaluations, perhaps you should ask the
    true believers about their areas of expertise and about their background in assessing competing theories of causation.

    Ask yourselves a simple question – if your child were diagnosed with cancer, which group would you turn to determine the likely cause and the best possible solutions.

  • Annette Smith

    “True believers.” “Fear-mongering.” Nice way to put down people with legitimate concerns.

    “Trust their expertise”. Whose expertise? The American Cancer Society? You mean people shouldn’t do their own research, including the studies in Europe that show a clear effect on the cellular level from exposure to RF? Or the Israeli cell tower study that showed a four-fold increased risk of cancer?

    Oh, I’m sorry, I’m just supposed to suspend critical thinking and say “okey, dokey, if you say so.”

    Not buying it. I get a headache around wireless. Now you can laugh and ridicule and say I’m a member of the tin hat society and it’s all in my head. Well, you’re right, I notice the effects in my head. Some people do. And we should have a choice about whether or not we want to be exposed to yet another layer of pollution. Money is being spent by governments to impose this system on us, without consent. I object.

    • Ken McPherson

      I agree that people have legitimate concerns. I also believe, as I think I made clear in my original comment, that people “should do their own unbiased research ” – in other words, keep an open mind. I simply would hope that those who have legitimate concerns would evaluate all evidence before reaching a personal conclusion. The studies that you cite have significant flaws that deserve analysis and careful thought. I do not think that this involves “suspend[ing] critical thinking. Rather, I believe that I was calling for careful critical thinking.

      I would suggest a simple test of your statements. Let’s rent a neutral public transportation vehicle, have it transport us to neighboring states (where you don’t already know the location of most towers,) and see if your headaches can accurately predict the relative proximity of towers.

      Finally, we should note that most money being spent on towers is being spent by the infallible private sector. It would seem that the logical point of your assessment is that we should be calling on the power of government to restrain the private sector to prevent them from doing tremendous harm to our environment. It’s good to have you on our side on that broad principle, if not on the specifics of the harm associated with cell towers. – Or, is EMF safe when the source is the private sector.?

      • Ken,

        Your analysis does everything but analyze the facts.

        There are thousands upon thousands of peer reviewed studies showing that RF radiation causes effects to human health.

        There is more evidence, way more, than there ever was for Benzene.

        If wireless radiation were a drug, it would have been taken off the shelves long ago.

        Put down your device and realize what is at stake here.

  • I shuddered when I read this article, because this microwave technology is being deployed without regard for human and environmental health.

    Many top scientists state that wireless radiation is the biggest health threat of the 21st century.

    There is a large body of scientific evidence, literally thousands of peer reviewed studies, showing that RF radiofrequency radiation causes adverse health effects, including cancer.

    In 2011, the World Health Organization designed RF radiation as a class 2B possible human carcinogen.

    In 2013, top scientists stated that new evidence justified the escalation of this classification to a Class 2A Probable Human Carcinogen.

    In 2014 the world’s top cell phone scientist stated that the science is now very clear – cell phone radiation is a Class 1A Known Human Carcinogen.

    All long term case-control studies over 10 years report an increase in brain cancer. For adults, it’s about a doubled risk, for children, the risk is much higher. Research shows that it is as much as 700% after just one year.

    The autism rate in the United States has gone from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 50 since 1980. While there are likely many contributing factors, the exponential curve of the autism epidemic exactly matches the curve of wireless proliferation.

    Even if you are the most ardent supporter of this technology, please just stop for a second and think where the autism curve is heading.

    As someone who has studied this issue for years, I can tell you that it is more complicated that going to Wikipedia, or even the American Cancer Society’s websites. The information there is outdated and factually incorrect.

    Hundreds of peer reviewed studies from around the world report DNA damage from EMF’s. The evidence is compelling and clear, but the American Cancer Society still parrots the old paradigm that says EMF’s can’t damage DNA.

    If studies from around the world show that this kind of radiation causes cancer and neurological effects, it’s time to put both feet on the brake pedal and not to immerse Vermont, one of the healthiest places left in the world, in a smog of invisible but harmful radiation.

    Technology is wonderful, and fast internet access is just about essential in this day and age, but it needs to be done in a manner that is safe.

    Peer Reviewed Research On Wireless Transmission Towers:

    Switzerland, 1995 – Sleep disorders, abnormal blood pressure, nervousness, fatigue, joint pain, digestive disorders, fewer school children promoted.

    Austria, 2004 – Fatigue, depressive tendency, sleeping disorders, concentration difficulties, cardiovascular problems.

    Austria, 2009 – Headaches, fatigue, cardiovascular issues.

    Spain, 2003 – Fatigue, headaches, sleeping problems.

    Egypt, 2000 – Headaches, memory changes, depressive symptoms, sleeping problems.

    Romania, 1994 – Behavioral disruption.

    Israel, 2004 – 10x increased risk of cancer in women, 4x overall.

    Australia, 1996 – 2x rate of leukemia in children.

    Austria, 2008 – Significant increases in breast cancer and brain tumors.

    There is also substantial evidence that RF radiation emitted from towers causes harm to wildlife. Birds have been found to disappear from areas with cell towers. Nesting activity changes, adults fight rather than take care of their young.

    Amphibians, bats, bird, trees, even Bee’s that are exposed to wireless radiation have clear problems – they will not return to their hives.

    These are important issues, folks, not how many gigabits we can download per second.

    Please, if this issue concerns you, contact Vermonters for a Clean Environment, and learn more about what you can do.

    • John Greenberg

      Ray Pealcer’s comment provoked my curiosity, since I don’t follow this issue. He writes: “In 2011, the World Health Organization designed RF radiation as a class 2B possible human carcinogen.”

      That sounds pretty bad, but since I have no idea what it means, I thought I should check. Here’s the definition of a class 2b carcinogen: ““This category is used for agents for which there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. It may also be used when there is inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity in humans but there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.“

      Here’s a bit more relevant information from a website called “Science Based Medicine:”

      “Expert groups of most of the world’s major public health organizations have taken the same position as the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) which had stated that (3 P 8): “It is concluded from three independent lines of evidence (epidemiological, animal and in vitro studies) that exposure to RF fields is unlikely to lead to an increase in cancer in humans“. The representative of the US National Cancer Institute walked out of the IARC meeting before the voting. The NCI issued a statement (4) quoting other studies stating that: “overall, cell phone users have no increased risk of the most common forms of brain tumors — glioma and meningioma“.
      Immediately following the IARC decision the WHO issued a reassuring new Fact Sheet (5) on mobile phones and public health: “A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”. Since this controversial IARC classification, several new papers have been published that substantially undermine the weak evidence on which the IARC based its assessment.
      The evidence that IARC cited to support its assessment was poor to begin with.”
      There’s much more, including footnotes to references, at

      • John,

        The website you are referring to, “Science based medicine”, is a pro-industry site. This is one of those sites that will leave out inconvenient and or opposing facts, and actively discount or dismiss any and all science that shows wireless harms human health.

        The wireless industry is immensely powerful, with trillions in yearly profit. By 2020, it is estimated that they will produce more than the entire United States GDP.

        The very next day after the WHO designated RF radiation as a class 2B carcinogen, the industry released a quarter of a billion dollars for war gaming the science. There is a large scale effort to prevent the public from realizing that microwave radiation is harmful to human health and the environment.

        I’ve been measuring EMF radiation for over 20 years. I’m not just arguing this in order to give myself something to do today, and I’m definitely not in this for personal gain.

        I want people to realize that wireless technology emits levels of microwave radiation that are billions of times higher than natural levels.

        Please, just stop, and think about the facts. All long-term case control studies, even those funded by the industry, report a substantial increase in brain cancer.

        SCENIHR, the committee you referred to, has been openly criticized for omitting peer reviewed research that clearly shows cell phones cause cancer.

        The Italian Supreme Court carefully reviewed the science and determined in 2011 that cell phones cause cancer.

        How much evidence do we really need before we admit that putting microwave transmitters up to our heads may cause a tumor?

        Is that really going to take 20 years, and watching the fall out before we clue in?

        Talk to the radiologists. They are seeing massive increases in cancers, including breast cancers.

        When someone uses a wireless device, they are placing a microwave transmitter inches from their chest, and again, these emit levels of radiation that are billions of times higher than normal levels.

        The autism rate has gone from 1:10,000 to 1:50. What is being done about this? What will happen if we get to 1:10 or 1:5, please stop and think about what life would be like.

        If you haven’t done your research, that is forgivable, but if you are one of those industry trolls that gets paid to spread disinformation, go somewhere else.

  • Matt Fisken

    I think what Ken is suggesting is that we look at everything that has been said on the subject and home in on the conclusion with which we feel most comfortable.

    Given the way we are often shielded from pertinent information, due to our personal and societal biases, most will only scratch the surface of the industry-generated propaganda saying that wireless/RF/MW radiation is harmless compared to other things and you need a lot of it to do any (thermal) damage.

    There are a number of possible mechanisms by which RF energy can cause cancer, but it is important to remember that for most heavy cell phone users and neighbors to wireless infrastructure, the latency period will likely be 10-20 years before tumors show up. Long before that, people experience other, more acute symptoms relating to microwave exposure, also called microwave sickness.

    One of the most common reactions to RFR is disrupted sleep, which can reduce melatonin production, thereby affecting our built-in ability to fight free-radicals and cancer. This is not unlike the findings that shift workers who are exposed to artificial light when their bodies should be resting are at higher risk of getting cancer and other illnesses. While it is true that the Sun puts off some EMR in the RF range, we are now simply getting way too much, way too pulsed, 24/7. We will all react differently, although no one is immune.

    Not everyone will get a tumor near their “phone ear” or where they’ve kept the phone powered on next to their breast or genitalia, but enough have who now realize that they should have read the fine print in their phone’s user manual (instructing not to keep the phone next to their body turned on) to be speaking out publicly.

    Mr. McPherson implies that folks who question the wireless juggernaut should be discounted because they do not hold the credentials that he values. As one of many former IT professionals who has forfeited an enjoyable, lucrative career and had to move from a beloved home in order to protect my health and the health of my family, I will disclose that the combination of living near wireless infrastructure and working in a very electrical environment was the perfect storm that led me understand: what you can’t see CAN hurt you. Luckily, I was able to connect the dots and have made enough adjustments in my life to find my quality of life improve, despite decreased income and mobility. I continue sharing what I’ve learned so that others may catch on before it is too late.

    Having read that Ken has “has worked with clients as they introduced new technologies including graphical user interfaces, super computers, expert systems, and Internet products” and his company is sponsored by the US DOE(which is actively engaged in the dosing of most of America through the deployment of wireless “smart” meters), among other high rollers, I realize that he is going to approach this subject with his own particular bias.

    Lastly, I think it is worth noting that Mr. and Ms. Guité are not exempt from these exposures. Michel has a background in microwave technologies and they certainly are getting them in the work they do. As I learned at a Hartord Selectboard meeting on May 27, they will be hosting one of their own towers less than 50 feet from their home in Hartland. This was Diane’s response to the concerns I voiced over their plan to radiate 20 homes within 1/4 mile of their proposed tower in Quechee. You can watch the video here: (sorry, the skip function seems to be broken so you’ll have to wade through more than an hour of unrelated business to get to the VTel discussion).

    Thankfully, the Selectboard shared the concerns of everyone who spoke—that wireless infrastructure does not belong in densely populated neighborhoods—and voted to submit a letter of disapproval to the Public Service Board regarding the project. Even though it is ultimately up to the PSB (which now includes a Commissioner from Norwich) to issue a CPG (which they certainly will), the Town of Hartford has clearly opposed the project.

    Still, hearing that an executive and his family is willing to drink his own snake oil does very little to convince me what he’s selling is safe.

  • Bruce Marshall

    I am glad that there are some people here in Vermont who are appalled by this evil invasion of our persons by this noxious pollutant. Good Job Annette, Ray Pealer, Matt Fisken and others fighting this.

    As I found out years ago, one is not allowed to question the health effects of cell towers in deliberations on placement…Yes the nation is dead.

    Well karma might strike at any time, even to the smug fat-cats pushing this, that they could become electro-sensitive at any time…and it is hell…a living hell with no escape…where your body will feel the hot spots and not even wants to type on a computer, much less even put a land line to one’s head.

    What fools and fakes these poseurs are, endangering all, may they be welcome in hell, for the flames of hell are not literal flames, no it is the flames of radio frequencies burning through flesh with real time broad band reception.

  • Matt Fisken

    For Ken and John and others who have a curiosity to learn more about the actual problems being created by wireless technology:

    “In the late 19th century taking canaries down coal mines was common practice.

    They were used as an early-warning system.

    In the presence of toxic gases the canaries would become sick before the miners, who would then have a chance to escape.

    Today IT (information technology) technicians are often in the front line for EMF exposures.

    They’ve become the modern equivalent of canaries in the coal mine.”

  • Willem Post


    Guite remembers his friends and gives them big “campaign contributions for constituent service” to keep them on his side, i.e., say nothing about any physical harm his towers may do to others.

    Basically, the contributions are bribes to help friendly politicians get re-elected and to help them put family and friends on political payrolls, which ultimately creates a political class of people with political dynasties.

    That is how the game is played. It is the same as with the proven harms of the tobacco industry, asbestos industry, wind turbines’ infrasound, etc.

    The PSB will likely bend over forwards to approved just about everything Guite presents.