July 13, 2011 Minutes
The Halifax Broadband Committee was called to order at 6:34pm Wednesday, June 13, 2011 at the Halifax Town Office. Present were committee members Edee Edwards, Curtis Carroll, Earl Holtz, Gretchen Becker, and Jessica Bruno. Members of the public present were Howard Smith.
Edwards moved and Becker seconded that the minutes of the June 8, 2011 meeting be approved as amended, and the motion passed 4-0-0 (Carroll was not present for this vote).
Each member of the committee reported on their further research and discussion with their assigned vendors:
Holtz reported that he was having some difficulty getting responses from the representative at Great Auk. David Dwyer has not returned phone calls. He reported that he had read about Great Auk having problems setting up their system in Ashfield, MA. He also reported that they may be setting up a system to serve Conway, Buckland and Shelburne Falls, MA. Great Auk is using a spectrum that used to be allocated to UHF which goes through biomass (trees) which is said to be better than WiFi.
Bruno reported that she purchased a Verizon mobile broadband device USB760 which is 3G compatible. They go for about $100-120 new and can be purchased refurbished for around $30. You can buy a monthly plan or purchase a prepaid plan ranging from 1 day ($15) to 1 month ($50 1GB, $80 5GB). She verified that the device itself works as she had success in Brattleboro, VT and in New York. She tested the device along Hinesburg Rd/Branch Rd/and Route 112 at various intersections but it was not able to get a strong enough signal (Green River Rd, Metcalf Rd, Thurbur Rd, Whitneyville & Brook, Branch & Brook, the fire station, town hall, Hubbard Hill & Branch, Branch & 112, and at various points south along route 112). Holtz reported that Marilyn Allen had success with a Verizon mobile broadband device on Jacksonville Stage Rd but only got signal strength of 100kbps (.1mbps) but reported that it was still 5-10x better than dial-up. Edwards reported about a device/plan that connects a smartphone to satellite called Spot Connect. Bruno also printed out data coverage maps for Halifax from Verizon, AT&T, Virgin Mobile, and US Cellular which will go in the Broadband Committee binder.
Edwards reported that she is still waiting for communication from Sovernet. She reported on an article that stated the environmental review is cleared, and Sovernet will be the first to start fiber lines around the state. VTel did not have clearing as they are pending agreement with the Federal Agency (as of June 8, 2011). Another news article incorrectly stated that Halifax had signed on for the service. One news article reported that Guilford school officials chose to vote 4-0 to put out the decision to the voters. Edwards will talk to Greg Noble regarding possible ways to tap into the line and how to broach it to the town. Holtz made the observation that Guilford was a 2nd tier town, so they might be the beneficiary of Halifax not signing on with Sovernet and the Fiber Connect grant.
Becker is having trouble receiving communications from Fairpoint as well. She reported that she wrote to Mike Smith and got a form letter in return. She will continue to try to get information from FairPoint.
Edwards reported that she attended the Whitingham Free Public Library Board of Trustees Meeting. Our representative Stephanie Power was not in attendance. Edwards asked the trustees if they would be open to Halifax having the opportunity to promote the library, use the laptop, bring books over, do programming etc, and the trustees seemed open to the ideas. Edwards asked Patricia Dow for her opinion on what day might be good to be able to use the town office space for these programs. Dow told Edwards that Saturday was generally not a busy day, however, Dow expressed concerns about the public on the town WiFi system and potential breaches of security. Carroll reported that we should be able to resolve this issue with a hard firewall that can block an IP address. Carroll will look into the issue of the cost and implementation of the firewall. The committee also agreed to ask the Selectboard if they would be willing to give these programs at the town office a trial. Bruno mentioned that on satellite, there may be the potential for a major slow-down if multiple people are using wireless at once, and the committee agreed to test it at the town.
Carroll reported that VTel letters say everything is on schedule, but when you ask questions, the representatives say “they don’t encourage people to interfere on their behalf.” The representative also said to talk to the Selectmen and get everyone on the same page, however, there aren’t enough specifics to go to the Selectmen with anything to agree/decide on. Carroll also reported that he received response from FairPoint that they have no plan to bring fiber to Halifax.
Carroll gave several suggestions on ways to improve the committee’s survey. Several additions/deletions were discussed by the committee, and Becker will make the agreed upon changes to the survey. The committee also discussed taking the survey door to door in a specific neighborhood(s) rather than initially spending money on a mail survey.
Holtz reported that he asked the Selectboard to put the Broadband Committee meeting minutes on the official website, but he did not receive a definitive answer at the end of the meeting.
Bruno reported that she received a form letter from Christine L. Peterson at the Division of Consumer Affairs & Public Information in response to reporting an unserved address on vtbroadband.org. Bruno will file the letter in the broadband committee binder for reference as it has some important contact information.
Hear from the floor:
Howard Smith expressed his gratitude for what the committee is trying to accomplish, and expressed his frustration relative to getting the answers to when, where, and how it’s going to get here.
Edwards moved and Carroll and Becker seconded to adjourn the meeting at 8:17pm.