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Bereft Of Bandwidth: FairPoint Broadband Not Available To All Customers In Some Places

Think of Marlboro as a gas station on the information superhighway.

There’s enough gas for everyone, but there’s a limited number of pumps.  

As a result, some Marlboro FairPoint customers have to wait in line to get broadband service, even though it’s available at their address. They are unserved residents in an area with broadband service.

“When we moved into our current rental, FairPoint told us we would have to go to the bottom of the list that they have running, even though the previous tenant had service with them.” Marlboro resident Ani Schaeffer explains in an email. Schaeffer says FairPoint is her only broadband option.

Using the gas station analogy that means until someone in Schaeffer’s area pulls away from the figurative gas pump by dropping their broadband service, there won’t be a free pump for Schaeffer to pull up to.

Apparently it’s a familiar situation, and some people in Marlboro have figured out workarounds.

“In our previous rental, the person who was a tenant two tenants previous to us had kept the Internet in his name as a favor to the landlord, which was the only reason we had Internet at that point,” says Schaeffer.

It’s an unhappy situation, according to Haley Elisha, another Marlboro resident.

“My frustration, as it is with many people, is that I am in an area where there is technically coverage,” she writes.

For FairPoint, it’s a matter of economics.

“Unfortunately in Marlboro the systems that provide services to some of the customers are at capacity, so we can’t sell [broadband] to additional customers,” says Beth Fastiggi, FairPoint's Vermont president.

Fastiggi says Fairpoint would need to make additional investments in equipment to provide broadband to everyone in the area, which would be “an extremely costly endeavor” that customer fees would fall far short of covering.

Fastiggi says in Vermont FairPoint has spent nearly $100 million, including $3.5 million in federal and state grants to expand and improve broadband since 2008 but unless the company is given grant money to provide service to Marlboro, it’s unlikely it will increase its capacity there.

Another factor in FairPoint’s calculations is VTel’s plan to bring wireless broadband service to the area.

Elisha says VTel has told her she may be able to sign up for their service this summer, but she’s concerned that wireless may not be the answer.

“Based on the fluctuations in cell service and even satellite, I doubt there are many of us that will consider that a solidly promising solution,”  she says.

Fastiggi says "a handful of areas across the state" have capacity issues similar to Marlboro’s.  She says unlike Marlboro residents, those customers often have other broadband options.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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