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Google Moves To Offer Cell Service In Vermont

Marcio Jose Sanchez
This 2013 photo shows a Google sign at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California. Google has received a certificate of public good from Vermont's Public Service Board to operate a cellular network in the state.

Vermonters may soon have the option to get cell phone service through a new company, though it’s likely one they already use regularly.

Google received a certificate of public good from Vermont’s Public Service Board this week, which allows the company to operate a cellular network in the state. Since cellular carriers are federally regulated, the state’s regulatory body didn’t heavily scrutinize Google’s plans for Vermont, though it does require the company to share its standard user contract and terms of service with the state. It also requires Google to make its financial information available to regulators.

The California-based search giant is new to the cellular business, though Google has already been involved in cell phone software and hardware for years, notably with its Android operating system.

This move, however, shows Google is preparing to enter a new phase in its mobile efforts.

The company’s entry into the cell service market doesn’t necessarily signal new cellular infrastructure in Vermont, however. A Google senior vice president confirmed last month at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that the company is planning to be a cell service provider, but not one with its own cell towers.

“We don’t intend to be a network operator at scale,” Google VP Sundar Pichai said, according to the International Business Times. “Carrier partners are the ones who provide services and we are actually working with carrier partners. Our goal here is to drive a set of innovation which we think the eco-system will adopt.”

As opposed to building an entire nationwide cellular network, in other words, Google is planning to use existing infrastructure from established carriers to roll out new features. Those features reportedly include seamless integration of cellular and Wi-Fi data and automatic reconnection of dropped calls.

That means Google would have to partner with existing cell carriers in Vermont, and customers using Google’s cellular service would have virtually the same signal strength – and dead spots – as those carriers.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment on details of the company’s service in Vermont, including when cellular customers might be able to sign up for a Google cell phone plan.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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