Ten years ago, fast Internet access was more luxury than necessity. Web sites were simpler, people purchased music on CDs instead of online, and YouTube didn’t exist. But times have changed. Internet access is quickly becoming a necessity of modern life. In the more remote areas of Vermont, this has created problems for people like professional data analyst Ed Nelbach. “I’m miles behind those with broadband access,” said Nelbach, a Hancock resident.Link to full article
President Barack Obama is expected to announce funding today for high-speed rail projects, including more than $50 million to upgrade track stretching from St. Albans to Massachusetts. The state will receive $500,000 to boost train service frequency between Rutland and Albany, N.Y., on the line that would have extended to Burlington. A second proposal to return passenger rail service to Burlington for the first time in 50 years was not a winner, however.Link to full article
As Vermont suffers the costly consequences of a high-profile bridge failure over Lake Champlain, House Speaker Shap Smith says he'll propose a new bonding plan aimed at preventing similar debacles in the future. "When you look at what happened to the Crown Point Bridge … it is clear we are at a critical time with regard to our transportation infrastructure, and particularly with our bridges," Smith said. "We're going to be spending more on bridges if we wait until they fall into the water to address these problems."Link to full article
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is making grant money available to help provide broadband Internet access to Vermont libraries. The money is expected to be used as the state's match for federal funding the state will seek in early 2010 under the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.Link to full article
Governor James Douglas may not be able to achieve his announced ambition of making Vermont the nation's first e-state. But some telecom analysts think Vermont might nevertheless reach the goal of making high-speed Internet connections and reliable cell phone service available to all the state's residents by 2010. And, they say, the economic ramifications of such universal access could prove profound.Link to full article
Ever since the invention of the automobile, paved roads have meant progress. Now some cash-strapped towns and counties are finding progress too expensive, and they are tearing up battered roads and putting down gravel.
The high price of pavement and the sour economy have driven municipalities in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Vermont to roll up the asphalt — a mile here, a few miles there, mostly on back roads — rather than repave.
As more consumers take an interest in knowing where and how their meat is produced, small-scale local meat production is on the rise in Vermont, and at butcher shops like LaRock’s that means the schedule is tight.
But at each step of the way, consumers and producers alike are pointing out that the state’s infrastructure still has gaping holes that make local meat production challenging. Be it the shortage of butchers and slaughterhouses or the inflexibility of federal regulations, getting meat from farm to table is sometimes easier said than done.Link to full article
The Brattleboro Reformer reports that "town managers all over Windham County are breathing a little easier this week after the state released thousands of dollars in quarterly transportation funding that it had previously threatened to withhold." The money was frozen in December "in an attempt to plug a growing gap in the 2009 transportation budget." Vermot towns "receive the quarterly payments and count on the money to fund road projects throughout the year." Notably, "in the end, the Legislature did cut 15 percent of the quarterly payment." As a result, "Brattleboro received $46,552, instead of the $55,000 it was expecting."
The Burlington Free Press reports that "for the second consecutive year, a record number of people boarded planes at Burlington International Airport in 2008." Indeed, "boosted by Canadian travelers and new AirTran and JetBlue routes, 759,021 people — 7.3 percent more passengers than 2007 — climbed aboard planes at Vermont’s largest airport last year. That marks the highest percent increase since the 9 percent jump in 2005." Brian Searles, the airport’s director, commented, "In this economy we’re thrilled with any growth in business and 7.3 percent certainly exceeded our expectations."
Vermont Public Radio reports that "at least 75 people crowded into the Rutland train station about an hour ago to show their support for the Ethan Allen Express passenger train." The crowd gathered in response to a budget-cutting proposition by the Douglas administration to eliminate train travel between Rutland and Albany, New York. The train "would be replaced by a bus that would serve Bennington, Rutland and Burlington." According to Rutland leaders, "Tthe city needs the Ethan Allen Express for its economic survival. And they say the train is successful - it carried 17% more passengers in the past year."
Vermont Public Radio reports that the Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) has "formed a partnership with Earth Turbines, a Williston company that builds and installs residential wind turbines" in an effort to put cell phone transmitters atop wind turbines. The VTA "has been given the goal of establishing universal cell phone coverage in the state by 2010. Officials say it's too expensive to build traditional cell towers in rural areas. So [the VTA is] working with Earth Turbines to add cell antennas onto much smaller residential wind turbines." It is estimated that "200 windmill towers would be needed to reach all of the areas of the state where there's not currently a cell phone signal."
Vermont Public Radio reports that Thursday, January 15th "marked the official launch of AT&T cell phone service in the state and the availability of the iPhone." According to AT&T officials, "Lines were long at all 10 Vermont outlets all day. So much so that running out was a concern. But a new shipment of the high tech phones is on its way." Notably, "AT&T acquired regional carrier Unicel late last month."
Vermont Public Radio reports that "as the state Transportation Agency cuts its budget, officials may be forced to reduce passenger rail service in Vermont." Currently, "the state provides a $5 million subsidy to operate two Amtrak lines in Vermont. The Ethan Allen Express runs from Rutland to New York City, and the Vermonter goes from St. Albans to Washington, D.C." According VTrans spokesman John Zicconi, "officials are reluctant to cut the service." Zicconi added, "Right now I'm not even saying Amtrak will be cut. It's being considered like everything else is being considered. We don't want to cut Amtrak. It's a service who's growing. People are trying to get out of their single occupancy vehicles. Amtrak is a popular service that everybody likes. But in tough times even those programs have to at least be looked at to understand how they fit into the greater picture our priorities."