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Getting a major boost

Town of Vermont should see internet, phone service improve after broadband grant


August 10, 2017

Poor internet and telephone service in portions of the Town of Vermont received a boost last week when the Public Service Commission awarded TDS Telcom a $286,000 broadband expansion grant.

The 307 locations to be wired for internet service are located just south of the village of Black Earth and include 21 business.

The state’s Broadband Expansion Grant program annually awards $1.5 million to areas of the state that do not have high-speed internet service.

The grant was awarded to Black Earth Telephone, doing business as TDS Telecom, and will match the state’s grant amount.

Broadband speed is defined as uploading data at 25 megabits per second and downloading at 3 Mbps.

Seventy-five of the location will be wired at broadband speeds while the remainder will get internet service at 10 Mbps downloaded and 1 Mbps uploaded.

TDS Telecom serves much of the surrounding area but sparsely populated rural areas lack broadband access due to the high cost to build the network required to service them.

In a letter to the Public Service Commission in support of the grant, Town Chair John Hallick wrote that the town has “no usable interview service and poor telephone service.”

Efforts to contact Hallick’s cell phone Monday for comment on the grant were unsuccessful.

The many hills and valleys throughout the town interfere with telecommunications service to the point where one resident told Hallick she was not able to call 911, according to Hallick’s letter.

Another resident told Hallick that the lack of internet service also affects real estate values in the town as buyers expect properties to have internet access.

Without internet access, parents drive their children to the Black Earth library so they can do their homework, wrote Hallick.

Fortunately, TDS can fix the town’s phone and internet problems by expanding broadband service, he wrote.

U.S. Mark Pocan, who lives in the town, also supported the grant application.

TDS will accept $18.8 million annually from the Federal Communications to expand broadband in 35,000 locations in the U.S. Coupled with the state grant, broadband service to the town will be accelerated, Pocan wrote.

TDS plans to begin wiring portions of the town by Sept. 20 and be largely completed by August 2019.

A call to TDS’s government affairs liaison Monday about the cost to customers and where construction will begin was not returned before deadline.

This year is the fifth year the PSC has awarded grants. Last year, TDS received a $156,500 grant to serve the town of Barry. Work is on track to complete that project by September 2018, according to TDS’ application.

“TDS is thrilled to be receiving targeted state support to improve and strengthen our customers’ broadband connectivity in the Town of Vermont,” said Drew Peterson, TDS’ vice president of external affairs and corporate communications.

“Our customers have been clamoring for improvement and will be the true beneficiary of this grant, which will ensure better, faster and more reliable internet service.”


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