Company Brings Better Broadband to Northeast Kingdom

EAST BURKE, Vt. (WCAX) – In a world where Zoom meetings reign supreme and the option of distance learning looms, Vermonters need to stay connected. But, in the nation’s second least populous state separated by farmland, only 77.3 percent of Vermonters are served by adequate broadband.

A local broadband company is hoping this will help change that.

“I know a lot of people here, they’re as frustrated as we are,” said Donald Timson of Sutton.

Before Timson’s home was hooked up to Northern Connection’s wireless service, he and his partner were without Wi-Fi for months.

“Being in this area, even my cell phone, I only get two bars. So I can look at it, but I have to be near a window to get it, ”Timson said. Now the Sutton resident is back on the grid.

Northern Connections, which has just acquired Kingdom Connection, covers 460 square miles of the Northeast Kingdom. On Sunday, the company redeveloped its tower atop Burke Mountain to increase the capacity and speed of its service.

“We can set up a tower and make a very similar type of connection with people in a 360 degree radius to where we’re broadcasting,” said Ryan Somerfield, one of the partners and managing members of Northern Connections.

One of the changes made on Sunday was the installation of 4 RF Element horns. The horns provide a more efficient wireless internet connection throughout the area, more than the antennas already present. And the more horns the better, so four is a pretty good start.

Somerfield says the changes will give customers a 40-megabit internet package aimed at multi-person households. He says the goal is to eventually offer 80 and 100 megabit packages.

“Broadband is evolving, the use of broadband is evolving. People broadcast and watch movies, and at the height of the pandemic, people are learning from a distance, ”Somerfield said.

Somerfield says the company has hundreds of clients and projects, that number will double within a year if it expands its services to Essex and Orleans counties.

“These cities are undeserved and the hollows of Burke, and when you go up to Barton, there’s just nothing there. Our goal is to really expand that network and be able to make it an option for more people, ”said Somerfield.

Somerfield says big companies tend to shy away from less populated areas of Vermont.

“The infrastructure just isn’t there because there isn’t enough money to be made from it. This is really what it is, ”said Somerfield.

As a customer, Timson argues that the Scott administration needs to incent these companies.

“All that money keeps going into the state to improve broadband Internet service, but they’re not expanding their footprint. They stay where they are, ”said Timson.

Somerfield says Northern Connections did not receive funding from the CARES Act, but argues the state’s investment would be worth it.

“If the state or the federal government opened up more subsidies, wireless internet providers, not just us, but there are so many out there in this country. We would be able to get more of the Internet to people faster and for less, ”Somerfield said.

For now, hundreds of residents of the Northeast Kingdom will benefit from faster internet speeds thanks to the upgraded tower.

Copyright 2021 WCAX. All rights reserved.

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