By DAVE GRAM
The Associated Press
EAST MONTPELIER, Vt. — Marlene and Mike McCarty, real estate brokers who do much of their work at home less than four miles from the Vermont Statehouse, say they spend hundreds of dollars and hours each month on things they wouldn’t have to if they had broadband Internet access.
Despite promises for years by state officials and phone and cable companies that they would have broadband by 2010, they’re still waiting. Now Vermont is in the heat of a gubernatorial campaign, and the candidates are making a new round of promises about broadband and fixing Vermont’s spotty cellular phone coverage.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Mike McCarty said.
Experts say Vermont’s mountains and hills block wireless signals. Its sparse population of about 622,000 makes stringing cables to widely scattered rural homes and businesses too expensive to be profitable in many areas. The upshot is that Vermont has struggled to keep up with the information age.
“In most rural areas you have a very challenging business proposition for broadband,” said Christopher Campbell, executive director of the Vermont Telecommunications Authority. That state agency, created in 2007, is promoting Vermont’s efforts to expand both broadband and cellular phone service statewide.
“That doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” Campbell added. “It has been done. It’s been done in Vermont. It’s even possible that if we waited long enough somebody would figure out how to do it all without any help. The problem is we can’t afford to wait.”