State Seeking Input on Cellular Coverage

Release Date: 
June 24, 2011 - 10:30am

Virtually every Vermont cell phone user has experienced the frustration of dead zones and dropped calls as they travel throughout the state. These interruptions of service are not only frustrating; they also have negative ramifications for business, tourism and public safety.

The state has a goal of statewide cellular and broadband availability by the end of 2013, and the state authority that is charged with making investments of state dollars to help achieve this goal is the Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA). The recently passed the 2012-2013 Capital Bill which provided the VTA with $10 million to advance both cellular and broadband infrastructure.

As it prepares to put in place strategies to deploy these state funds in support of cellular service expansion, the VTA has issued a Request for Public Comment on cellular service expansion, one of the steps called for in the legislation providing the state capital appropriation. Industry representatives, local and regional officials, and the general public are invited to provide input on which areas need service and what combination of strategies would be best to achieve the goal of universal coverage. The Request for Public Comment also seeks comments on whether VTA assistance should come in the form of grants to cellular providers, or investments in VTA-owned infrastructure which could be used by cellular providers, two options authorized by the Capital Bill.

All cellular service is provided by private companies licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the VTA does not directly provide cellular service. “Our role is to identify the problem areas and work with cellular carriers to make sure necessary infrastructure in those areas is in place for the cellular carriers to utilize,” said Christopher Campbell, Executive Director of the VTA. “We want to hear both from those companies that need to provide cellular service and the members of the public that are impacted when they cannot get a reliable cell signal.”

Prior to issuing the Request for Public Comment, VTA identified 97 “Target Corridors” and “Drop Zones” that have no, marginal, or inconsistent cellular service from at least one of the two major types of cellular networks in the state, based on the results of a 2010 drive test commissioned by the VTA in cooperation with the Vermont Broadband Mapping Initiative.

The infrastructure needs in these unserved areas vary, and may include towers or other structures, or fiber cable to connect the cellular sites with the rest of the network. The VTA also has the option to provide grants to help pay for equipment necessary to provide the cellular service to end users.

A series of questions and instructions for submitting input are posted on the VTA web site, www.telecomvt.org, under http://www.telecomvt.org/resources/public-comments.php. They may be here. The VTA is requesting that all comments be received by July 22, 2011.