Fiber in Our Diet

Opinion / Sep. 8, 2016 9:23am EDT

The economy is forefront in our minds during this election season—and if it’s not, the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor will remind you.

In the 21st Century (even in Vermont), economic opportunity means high quality broadband Internet access at an affordable price.

Anyone who was alive in the first half of the 20th Century probably remembers the difficulties in making sure that utilities like electricity and telephone service were universal. Anyone who has driven around the state in the past decade has probably realized the difficulty in getting reliable cellphone service to our rural towns.

Internet access has proven no less of a challenge.

It is encouraging that Royalton-based ECFiber has been able to switch on high-quality, high-speed, fiber-optic-based broadband service in Braintree this week.

This represents a monumental accomplishment that seemed impossible just a few years ago.

When ECFiber began seeking support from towns in 2007 to build up a community-owned fiber optic Internet infrastructure, the technologically-inclined were wowed by the promised speeds. Despite an enthusiastic sign up from area towns, funding evaporated as the U.S. economy crashed.

Over the past decade, just about every politician running for office has (rightly) touted the need for Internet access. It seems like we’re now at the brink of this becoming a reality.

It should be quite apparent by now that broadband Internet access is not a luxury item anymore. It’s as important a tool for business as were the railways that connected Vermont’s towns in the second half of the 1800s.

Much is made of the need for young folks to come to Vermont and stay, but unless we can provide an infrastructure of reliable and easy-to-access high-speed Internet, we’re not giving them that choice.

Vermont has a tremendous quality of life—one that many people would be glad to have if only they could access work from our remote roads.

The more we encourage broadband infrastructure, the more progress we gain toward making Vermont a viable economic force in the world and a welcoming place for the next generation.

T. Calabro

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