Vermont Governor Jim Douglas in his inaugural address today in Montpelier: “I propose that by 2010, Vermont be the nation’s first true ‘e-state’ – the first state to provide universal cellular and broadband coverage everywhere and anywhere within its borders. When you turn on your laptop, you’re connected. When you hit the send button on your cell phone, the call goes through. There would be no more endless downloads, no more hopeless hellos, and no more ‘can you hear me now.’”
If your business or business idea involves serving a fully online population, you should consider field trials here in Vermont; we’re going to be the first “e-state” but the others are sure to follow You might even want to consider locating here. This is already a great place to live; now it’ll have great connectivity as well. You can easily get out of sight of civilization in Vermont; whether you’re also out of touch is your choice.
This is the vision Governor Douglas presented to the legislature. The proposed mechanism for assuring that this tough goal is achieved is a State Rural Telecommunications Authority which will issue up to $40 million of State-backed bonding which the Governor expects will be the seed for more than an additional $200 million in private investment – all aimed at building communication infrastructure. Much of the State money will go to build towers to assure universal coverage; rentals from the towers and other facilities built will fund the indebtedness. Use of State land and right of way will speed the process.
Jim Douglas gets it: “Wireless communications and broadband internet access are near the point of convergence – meaning the technologies that support each will be the same. More specifically, modern telecommunications will be based on Internet Protocol, or IP, a digital language that can support voice calls – like cell phones and standard telephones – as well as internet communications – such as email and web pages.”
It doesn’t stop there. Knowing that broadband is universally available gives Vermont the freedom to build the next generation of state services to take advantage of this connectivity.
Teachers can give Internet-dependant homework. Can’t do that today when too many members of the class may not have decent Internet access. University of Vermont and the State Colleges which are already pioneers in distance learning can reach ALL of the population.
Home health care can be radically improved. Vermonters can be monitored at home; doctors don’t have to be in the hospital or their offices to see results.
The new communication systems for emergency services will be built over a wireless IP infrastructure. Imagine what this means for a next generation of E-911. It also means the end of the ridiculous situation where different first responder units can’t communicate with each other because their radios support different frequencies.
Instate business will obviously benefit from better communication capability and lower communication costs. It will be easier for Vermonters to buy instate (if that’s what they want) or sell out of state.
Without the density to support much mass transit, Vermont’s economy is hurt when the price of imported energy goes up. But the ability to substitute communication for transportation helps the environment, the economy, and the pocketbooks of individual Vermonters.
This is a bold vision. Three years is not a long time. But Vermont is determined to be an Internet leader in Internet time.
Full disclosure: I’ve worked with the Governor’s Telecom Advisory Council which provided significant input to this plan and have been giving both solicited and unsolicited advice as the plan developed. I’m an admirer of and rabid partisan of this bold stroke so it’s possible that my coverage will be slanted by my enthusiasm and/or participation.
However, except where otherwise stated, all opinions in this post are mine and not necessarily the opinions of any other person or body.