CAVENDISH, Vt. – At the Cavendish Selectboard meeting on March 14, the discussion turned to telecommunications; specifically, continuous cellular and Internet coverage in the city.
Cavendish resident Margo Caulfield, who has worked for many years to resolve internet issues in the town, distributed a document to the board and updated the town on current internet coverage and options for those still underserved or not served at all, which Caulfield calculated as about 8% of Cavendish’s 969 addresses.
According to his document, most Cavendish residents, 78%, have access to Comcast, which provides cable Internet; 87% of the city is covered by TDS, with around 20% of the city having TDS as the only option; 6% of the population is poorly served with speeds below 25/3; and 2% have no service, mostly in an area of town covered by Consolidated Communications, a landline-only service that offers no Internet options. Additionally, VTel wireless is used by a few addresses, often as a backup served by TDS.
Caulfield said that while home sales and values in town have been high recently, “try selling a house with a very poor internet connection.”
The state’s most recent initiative, the Critical Communications Infrastructure Program, set aside $51.5 million to install 100 cell towers in an effort to reach unserved wireless areas, improving cell service and data coverage in Vermont. Caulfield said it would help when traveling, but less so for home use.
In 2021, the VT Community Broadband Board was created with $150 million to help coordinate statewide broadband. A limiting factor in this program, according to Caulfield, is that the program wants to operate primarily through CUD, or Communication Union Districts, and according to Caulfield, they will only pay for fiber and not want to pay for Comcast, essentially freezing Comcast. excluding application for these funds. TDS, which can apply for this funding, has decided to extend fiber to the densest populations first, keeping those most in need still on standby.
As an alternative, Caulfield asked the board if he could find out what it would cost for Comcast to expand its cable service, and perhaps see what funding could be used to help with those costs, including the use of some of the city’s ARPA (American Rescue Act Plan) money. She went on to say, however, that even with that, “there are properties, I don’t know how we’re going to get to them.”
Cavendish and Weathersfield State Rep. John Arrison, who attended the meeting, said he and Weathersfield City Manager recently met with TDS officials and, according to TDS, they are beginning to build the set. of their system with fiber starting this summer. Caulfield added that these would be the most populated areas first and that previous efforts to see results had taken seven years, although she said TDS and Comcast had been helpful in wiring the northeast part of the city in the past.
The Cavendish Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday March 28 at Cavendish Town Elementary School, in person or via Zoom, with voting by Australian ballot the following day, Tuesday March 29 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the fire station in Protorsville. . The Zoom link for the Municipal Assembly will be posted on the Town’s website.
As spring approaches, City Manager Brendan McNamara said restoring the Old Town Garage site is going to be one of his top priorities and he hopes to turn it into a park. He will be working with Regional Planning, Cavendish Streetscapes and the Cavendish Roads Team to ensure the site is suitable and will be carrying out soil testing soon. Anyone interested in volunteering for the project should contact the town hall.
McNamara is updating speeding ordinances and documenting city roads with a plan to present a draft to Council by the next meeting.
McNamara is looking to have the driveway of the municipal office paved and will be sending out an RFP soon. In addition to the Class 2 paving grant the city is slated for, he also wants to look at several Class 3 roads that need paving, including Whitesville Road and High Street.
The next Cavendish Select Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cavendish Municipal Office.