August 10, 2011 Minutes
The Halifax Broadband Committee was called to order at 6:32pm Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at the Halifax Town Office. Present were committee members Edee Edwards, Curtis Carroll, Gretchen Becker, and Jessica Bruno. Earl Holtz was absent. Members of the public present were Margo Avakian.
Edwards moved and Carroll seconded that the minutes of the July 13, 2011 meeting be approved as amended, and the motion passed 3-0-1 (Becker abstained).
Edwards reported that at the last Select Board meeting, a Halifax town website committee was formed to improve the information on the official town website. Members of the committee are Patty Dow, Phyllis Evanuk, Peggy Webber, Edee Edwards, and Charlene Martinowski. Edwards reported that the committee will meet to discuss goals, and evaluate whether they can get the existing website to work and function better, or whether they will need to evaluate new templates for a new website structure. Edwards reported that VLCT templates cost $1200-$1800 for the 1st year plus an additional $400/year maintenance charge. Several committee members inquired where the school website is hosted and whether they can link it to the town website. Edwards also reported that we have approval to get the Broadband Committee minutes posted on the town website. Bruno will now forward draft and final minutes to Phyllis Evanuk for posting on the town website.
Becker proposed doing a test mailing in one or two portions of town and calculate the percent of returns we get to see if it’s worth-while to do a town-wide mailing. Edwards suggested doing a fairly isolated survey and mentioned that if some people get surveys and others do not, they may get mad. The committee also discussed doing a door-to-door test survey to see how it’s received and possibly get ideas for revisions. Edwards mentioned that we need to get the property owners addresses. Avakian mentioned that the planning commission did a survey so we may be able to get a list from them. Patty Dow would have a more current list so the Committee will ask Ms. Dow to compile a list for us. Edwards proposed and the Committee agreed that we would do a door-to-door test survey along Rte 112 from the Massachusetts border to Branch Road before the next Broadband Committee meeting. Bruno and Becker will visit these houses personally with the surveys and talk to the people along this route.
Each member of the committee reported on their further research and discussion with their assigned vendors:
Edwards inquired that if the school board chooses another provider and gets another line, can we re-purpose the old line? Carroll responded that due to its capacity, probably not. Edwards reported that she attended a school board meeting in which a Fairpoint representative was present. The representative reported that the list of towns has not been solidified for the next phase of expansion. Halifax was on a list of potential towns to be the beneficiary of money from the Public Service Board. The list will not be solidified until October. The representative also reported that dedicated service to the school depends on the school’s needs. It was the representative’s opinion that Halifax would not have fiber all the way to the homes in her work life, but there is a possibility they will bring fiber in if we have a business case. Carroll reported that executives at Fairpoint have said no way to fiber in Halifax as there are no trunk lines and nothing to build off of. Edwards reported that the Fairpoint representative also gave estimates of cost for fiber: a 30 mb connection is $2800/mo for a 3 year contract and a 10 mb connection is $1600/mo. Avakian noted that this is 12 times Sovernet’s cost and Carroll noted that Sovernet had offered 50 mb. Edwards also reported that the Fairpoint representative mentioned that tapping into Fiberconnect was not outside the realm of possibility.
Edwards spoke with Greg Noble at Sovernet again to inquire whether we were wasting our time. Noble mentioned that the next step would be if the school board went out to bid with their need for high speed internet (they would use Form 470), and Sovernet were to respond to the bid and they won it, then Sovernet could still bring fiber to the Halifax school. Noble indicated that the grant could possibly cover it but because we were no longer in the plan, we would get it later than 2012. It was also noted that at every 10th pole, they are required to put in a loop to allow people to connect.
Becker was contacted by e-mail from Sabina Haskell at Fairpoint. She believes Halifax is on the list of towns to be considered in the next phase, but the list will not be finalized until October. Ms. Haskell said she would make note that Halifax wants to be considered as one of the communities.
Carroll reported that Stanford, VT has a state grant for a last mile project to connect Sovernet’s fiber to residences.
Bruno reported that she has not been able to connect in Halifax using the Verizon USB760 mobile broadband device. She will map out specific addresses using Verizon’s coverage map and see if specific covered areas on the map actually have coverage. Carroll suggested trying Hanson Rd.
Recent Broadband News:
Bruno reported that a Boston Community is using a company called netBlazr as Verizon is withholding FiOS upgrades in the area. NetBalzr works off of an existing 1 gigabit fiber line and offers low cost access to customers willing to pay $299 for their basic installation kit and use netBlazr service and also agree to share the service with anyone in range of the wireless antennas included in the kit.
Several committee members had noted there was an article in the Brattleboro Reformer which cited that VTel was expanding accessibility to Newfane, Stratton, Westminster, and Wardsboro by November 2012.
Edwards moved and Carroll seconded to adjourn the meeting at 7:55pm and the motion passed 4-0-0.