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Resolution Seeks High-Speed Internet For All Putney Residents

Susan Keese
Voters in Putney narrowly defeated a bid to switch to a new ambulance service.

Putney voters approved a $1.8 million municipal budget at their town meeting Tuesday. They agreed to an $8,000 request for region wide economic development. They decided to stay with their longtime ambulance service, despite another provider’s lower bid.

And they sent a complaint to Montpelier calling for high-speed Internet access for the whole town.

Putney resident Wendy Wilson read the resolution: "Whereas several hundred Putney addresses still do not have access to affordable hardwired broadband Internet."  Town meeting voters passed it unanimously.  It calls on area legislators and Governor Peter Shumlin to secure wired broadband Internet to all Putney residents by the end of 2014.

Putney is Governor Shumlin’s hometown. John Field, who drafted the resolution, hoped that Shumlin would be at town meeting. 

“The governor made us a promise at town meeting here last year that he would get everything wired 100 percent, no ifs, ands or buts,” Field says. “I’ve got the quote.”

Instead, area lawmakers got an earful from residents who say they’re tired of hearing that Putney already has Internet service.

"Close to 300 of us in Putney only have dial-up," says Field. "In my case I pay $80 a month to Can’t Skype, can’t stream anything. My wife’s a pediatrician in town. She can’t do her electronic medical records."

Nancy Braus says people on her road are getting Internet from Comcast or Fairpoint. But not her house. Braus has a daughter who’s deaf.

"And she cannot use her video phone, which most every deaf person in America considers a basic tool of communication," she says.

Braus has called the Vermont Telecommunications Authority about the problem. The state agency is charged with extending Internet service to the state’s most remote areas. Braus says she’s been told that her address already has high speed service.

"And you say, 'Who’s serving us?'" Braus says. "And they say 'VTel.' And you say, 'That’s interesting, because we’ve had no communication from VTel whatsoever.'"

VTel is a Springfield company that’s been extending wireless service as part of the state’s Internet rollout. John Field says wireless isn’t good enough. He says he wants what most of his town has already: hard-wired Internet.

Susan Keese was VPR's southern Vermont reporter, based at the VPR studio in Manchester at Burr & Burton Academy. After many years as a print journalist and magazine writer, Susan started producing stories for VPR in 2002. From 2007-2009, she worked as a producer, helping to launch the noontime show Vermont Edition. Susan has won numerous journalism awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her reporting on VPR. She wrote a column for the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Her work has appeared in Vermont Life, the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times and other publications, as well as on NPR.
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