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The Boston Globe


Vermont stumbles in Internet service goal

VICTORY, Vt. — A half-century after the isolated town of Victory became one of the last in Vermont to get electricity, many of its 64 residents hoped to have broadband Internet access by now — but it turns out the state is not going to make its much-heralded goal of blanketing the state with high-speed service by the end of the year.

Ruth Neborsky, the town clerk whose office in a former one-room schoolhouse, is not covered by the broadband service that arrived to part of Victory earlier this year. She tries to get by with a satellite connection instead. But it is not fast or reliable. ‘‘We don’t have enough bandwidth to do anything,’’ she said.

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With two months left in the year, state and private telecommunications officials admit they will not to reach their goal of 100 percent broadband access, a goal first set for 2010. They are close — officials estimate that 99 percent of Vermonters have access to broadband services.

‘‘We have projects already in the works for all but a handful of the remaining locations, and we’re finding a way to reach the few that remain,’’ Governor Peter Shumlin, who two years ago pushed the goal to the end of 2013. ‘‘All of this is really great progress.’’

Broadband is not just about streaming video or easy access to e-mail — it is considered a critical part of modern living, be it online shopping or helping businesses share information across the globe. Vermont has received more than $177 million of the billions in federal stimulus money spent to spread broadband across the country, part of an effort that some have equated with the 1930s New Deal effort to bring electricity to America’s hinterlands.

During his 2007 inaugural speech, former Governor James Douglas set the end of 2010 as the goal .

Vermont’s telecommunications providers have been using a combination of wired and wireless technology to reach the most remote areas in the state, stringing hundreds of miles of fiber optic cables and erecting specialized antennas. But the year-end deadline still is not attainable.

‘‘Our original timeline of year end 2013 was far too aggressive, and we underestimated the complexities associated with building a wireless network,’’ said Diane Guite, vice president of Vermont Telephone Company.

When the electricity was turned on in Victory and neighboring Granby in 1963, it was big news.

It is unlikely there will be a celebration when the unserved section of Victory gets broadband, probably next summer.

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