HARDWICK, Vt. (AP) — Lightning-fast Internet connectivity, telemedicine advances and even robot surrogates in classrooms are just a sampling of what state leaders and telecommunications companies like VTel hope will be coming to Vermont in the near future.
On Tuesday, VTel rolled out a statewide high-speed communications network in Hardwick that will serve sections of rural Vermont. Officials think it can be the first step in a wave of increasing technological capabilities for the state.
A wireless network will reach more than 20,000 homes and businesses in 24 towns across Vermont, including Hardwick, Berlin, Manchester, St. Albans, Barnet, Grand Isle and Windsor.
And the company's "fiber-to-the-home project" will bring high-speed Internet service to more than 16,000 homes and businesses in rural Vermont.
Shari Cornish, a Hardwick selectboard member and co-owner of a small crafts, gifts and home goods store called Whistle Emporium, welcomed the advances.
"So much is dependent on tourism and having people find us, our little store, but also Hardwick and restaurants and things to do here, it's easier when it pops up on their smartphone," Cornish said.
Vermont has been working for years to expand broadband Internet service.
When Vermont applied for a series of federal grants four years ago, like the one enabling VTel's projects, it ranked 35th in the nation in terms of broadband availability, according to David Weinstein, a representative of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sander's office. After the projects are complete, officials hope the state will rank first.
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