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.

Hilary Niles

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14 Comments on "VTel celebrates first wireless broadband towers"

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Matt Fisken
2 years 5 months ago
“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… Read more »
Annette Smith
2 years 5 months ago
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… Read more »
rosemarie jackowski
2 years 5 months ago

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
2 years 5 months ago
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… Read more »
Annette Smith
2 years 5 months ago
“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… Read more »
Ken McPherson
2 years 5 months ago
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.… Read more »
2 years 5 months ago

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.

2 years 5 months ago
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… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 4 months ago
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… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago
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.… Read more »
Matt Fisken
2 years 5 months ago
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… Read more »
Bruce Marshall
2 years 4 months ago
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… Read more »
Matt Fisken
2 years 4 months ago

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

http://www.electricsense.com/8395/emf-protection-physicists-approach/

“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
1 year 10 months ago
All, 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… Read more »
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