Friend David Zahn took the picture above of Vermont Governor Jim Douglas and me on the stage at David Isenberg’s Freedom to Communicate (F2C) conference yesterday answering questions on Vermont’s plan to become the first e-state. Connectivity being what it is, Mary had the picture on her screen and had already forwarded it to my mother (who bought me the nice red shirt) before I got off the stage. David and friends drove down to Silver Springs. MD from Vermont because they know how important it is for Vermont to be better connected to itself and the rest of the world.
Three techno-entrepreneur friends told me they were thinking of relocating to Vermont after they heard how ambitious our plans to become the first e-state are (and about the four feet of snow even in the valleys).
Best received, in my biased view, was the governor’s assertion that availability of adequate broadband to 100% of the population everywhere is qualitatively different than 95% percent coverage in most locations. This is the key distinction in what Vermont is doing.. Also well-received were the quantitative goals: minimum 3 meg up and down by 2010 (OK but not great was the reaction); 20 meg symmetric by 2013 (he gets it!).
Some of the questions the governor got were about why we’re not going further. Why isn’t the state planning to become the last mile provider and just give everyone free connectivity.? His answer was intensely practical: we don’t have the money to do that; it wouldn’t happen fast enough with just state money; the state shouldn’t be picking the technology winners and losers, a public-private partnership can and will get Vermonters what they need.
Popular Vermont columnist and blogger Peter Freyne had a problem logging on to the webcast. Actually, F2C hag a problem webcasting. All us nerds get together at these conferences and we break stuff that oughtta work. Too bad because I think Peter would have enjoyed the governor’s talk and the q&a.
Peter also asked why the governor was there at all. That one’s easy: getting connected can’t be done purely from instate. We want help from the Internet community for an ambitious plan. We want entrepreneurs to know that they not only will have an Internet connection if they live their dream lives in our woods, they will also have the perfect testbed for the Local Web apps built for the day when everyone is connected.