By a unanimous vote this week, the Select Board approved an underground dig permit for the Vermont Telephone Co., or VTel, to bury fiber-optic cable around town.
“The goal is to provide every home and business a fiber connection for telephone, Internet and IP (Internet protocol) television if desired,” said Town Manager Seth Webb.
Bill Hinckley, senior project controls manager for VTel, apprised the board of his company’s plans.
According to Hinckley, VTel will replace existing copper wire with fiber, which allows electricity carrying telephone, Internet and television signals to travel much faster and at a greater volume than through a copper digital subscriber line (DSL).
“DSL, as you know, is very slow compared to fiber-optic service,” Hinckley said.
The utility says fiber optic is about 40 times as fast as DSL. VTel is rolling out the fiber improvements and has so far upgraded connections in Springfield, North Springfield and Middletown Springs. As with the upgrades in those towns, an engineer working for VTEL will — as Hinckley put it — “walk every foot” of the proposed work with the town’s road foreman to identify any conflicts between VTel’s project and road maintenance.
The fiber upgrade will be done at no expense to the town, with the money coming from federal stimulus money and capital investment by VTel. Under the conditions of the permit, VTel will return all roads to their original condition, and should the town decide to widen or relocate a road, VTel will relocate the fiber cable.
Hinckley said the upgraded service won’t raise customers’ rates.
“If you have telephone today, you’ll have telephone tomorrow with no change to your bill,” he said. “If you have a telephone and DSL, you’ll have telephone and fiber optic at no extra charge.”
In addition to telephone and Internet, some VTel customers will also be able to use their Internet connections to watch television. VTel is currently testing its IP television service, which offers more than 500 channels.
“From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a great, clear picture. There’s no delay in changing channels like there is with Comcast,” said Hinckley, who told the Select Board the television service would be priced to compete with cable company Comcast and satellite television providers Dish Network and DIRECTV.
VTel is expected to complete its main line work by the end of October and will make making connections to homes and businesses throughout the winter.