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Town of Vermont has access to high speed internet


September 20, 2018

While the definition of affordable may be up for debate, most Town of Vermont residents now have access to high speed internet service, a claim most couldn’t make 12 months ago.

As a result, and with no lack of enthusiasm, the Vermont town board unanimously voted to dissolve the broadband internet committee, calling their mission successfully completed and their goals met.

The ad-hoc committee was formed in December of 2016 to address the limited internet access in areas of the town. The group made town residents – and others – aware of their goals and strategies and asked for signatures on a petition.

“There was virtually overwhelming support,” town supervisor John Hallick said during his summary of the committee’s work. “The Town of Vermont got behind it.”

The documentation outlining the town’s concerns were delivered to representatives at every level of government in an effort to fund improvements to local internet access. “I saw 90 percent of them face-to-face,” Hallick said, adding the town eventually partnered with TDS because only the internet service provider can apply for funding. “That was a critical element.”

The Federal Communications Commission established a minimal acceptable rural standard where 75 percent of the connections must have a minimal speed of 25MB per second download and 3MB per second upload. The remaining 25 percent must have 10MB and 1MB.

“There could be a few exceptions [but] this has to be met for the governmental funding, which comes from the FCC and the [Public Service Commission] of Wisconsin,” Hallick said.

The grant-funded infrastructure work was completed on Aug. 30, 2018, a year ahead of the schedule set by the State of Wisconsin.

“The vectoring is fully enabled,” Hallick said, explaining the technology allows faster internet access by working to remove interference within the connection. “The stated goal that we had was to have installed and available to all citizens wired high-speed internet at an affordable price. Affordable, I guess, is an individual thing. I can tell you that goal is reached.”

With the goals completed, Hallick recommended the committee be dissolved.

Hallick was not in favor of a resident’s suggestion to repeat the survey offered at the beginning of the process, saying he was unsure what the town would do with the updated internet speed data and suggesting the different levels of service – and cost – might influence how people respond, potentially tainting the accuracy of the data.

The committee was disbanded on a 4-0 vote.

The town clerk will likely be able to tap into the higher internet speeds with a new computer for the monthly tasks associated with the position. The purchase, capped at $1000, was approved at the August town board meeting and the board was required to approve a formal budget amendment to align the funding to the purchase. Any purchase of $500 or more requires a budget amendment.

“It wasn’t in the budget and now we need it in the budget,” Hallick said.

The board unanimously approved moving $1,000 from the road chip sealing account to cover the $700 cost of the new desktop computer. The chip sealing costs for 2018 came in approximately $20,000 under the budgeted amount.

Some local roads might see some additional new traffic in the near future if a citizen’s request to allow ATVs on town roads is approved. The request specifically named Pleasant Valley Road, Blue Mounds Trail, Moe Road, Forshaug Road and Greenwald Road.

Supervisor Scott Moe said he regularly travels through areas where ATVs are consistently used on local roads and he hasn’t encountered an issue.

“Most of the people I see are older people,” Moe said, “and the rigs they’re driving are probably $25,000. It looks like a truck.”

Hallick reported similar experiences.

“There’s one called the Cheese Trail which is basically Mineral Point to Monroe,” Hallick said, noting the named roads do not appear to connect to anything. “[The Cheese Trail] is 50 or 60 miles. People get on it and go somewhere. If they are circulating inside the Town of Vermont, that is not a good path. You have to be able to get from somewhere to somewhere. The key is to be able to get on it and go somewhere, otherwise it is just a go-cart track. The same thing you do on a snowmobile.”

Moe suggested requesting more information, such as if similar permissions are being requested in neighboring towns, to see what connections could be made with Vermont’s approvals.

“In Vilas County, you can go on anything that isn’t a numbered road,” Hallick said. He continued, saying he has an ATV and there are no trails in Dane County which compare to the Cheese Trail. The potential downside to the Cheese Trail and similar systems is the trail is open to a variety of uses, which can cause some conflict.

“That’s what they do up north with the snowmobile trails,” supervisor Todd Culliton said. “In the summertime, [some] become ATV trails. They don’t want them riding on the edge of [county] roads. It just tears up the shoulders.”

Town chair Karen Carlock raised concerns about large groups of people traveling together and potentially creating a road hazard.

The board took no formal action on the request, though the subject will be included on a future agenda.


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