VERMONT:  The Nation's First E-State
Jerry Nelson


Vermont is committed to having cellular coverage for every square foot of the state and broadband access for every home.  Ready to move yet?  

Hi, All,
On Monday 5Mar07, Gov. Jim Douglas (VT) presented his plans  to make Vermont "the first E-State in the Nation" offering 100% network connectivity  at  a meeting I enjoy each year.   He was introduced by his  network guru, Tom Evslin.


Some joke that achieving usable cellphone coverage in every dell and valley will leave the state looking like a wounded porcupine.  But 100% coverage is the only valid goal.  As those without broadband become a smaller and smaller minority, their disadvantage and isolation in society gets bigger and bigger.  Gov. Douglas, hats off to you for leadership and inclusiveness!!  

But there's more.  Suppose **everyone** is connected?  Now grade-school teachers can reach **every** student in class, and each student can collaborate with any other.    It pays for any club or group to run organizational activities on the Web because all membes are "present" there.  Gov. Douglas and his  Vermont pioneers hope software innovators will see Vermont as "the" testbed in the nation for new tools to have fun, raise money, fix up the town and  renew the richness of civic life.  

As a nation, our  broadband underclass got formed this year -- the USA finally went over 50% broadband access with no national commitment to reach 100%, no Rural Electrification Act, no universal telephone service fund.  Vermont is already solving a problem big guys on the national level don't yet know they have.  Once again,  state leadership tries to make up -- piecemeal -- for a national vacuum.  

For broadband, Vermont's consultant on fiber deployment is Tom Evslin, whom I respect as solid if not visionary.  He has found a nice thing for a not-quite-billionaire to do with his time.

re-written from Wikipedia:
Tom Evslin was co-founder (with wife Mary) of ITXC Corp, a wholesale VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)  provider.  The company grew from startup in 1997 to one of the world's largest carriers of telephone minutes in 2004 when it was acquired by another competitively-pressured company, Teleglobe.  Evslin's introduction to the phone business came at AT&T, where he drove AT&T's  first ISP, AT&T WorldNet Service, and popularized  flat rate  dialup access.  When AT&T would not move fast enough to seize the VoIP opportunity, Evslin  left to create ITXC. 

Evslin's first technological and buy-out success came when Microsoft bought key assets of Evslin's software company Solutions, Inc., including Evslin himself.  Evslin and Solutions, Inc. contributed to Microsoft's server technology and Backoffice products.  Although the Backoffice name was canned in 2001, this initiative was the start of Microsoft's first moves into the entire server line (serving up Web pages, serving e-mail, SQL database serving) and away from the desktop.

It is important for Vermont to succeed.  But it is more important for advancing the Internet and the nation that municipal networks succeed, more important that cities and counties not be blocked from building their own cable plants (water, sewer, electricity, fiber -- what every home needs).

The "muni broadband" battle is big and nasty enough to attract a lot of attention:
Comcast and SBC  opposed one municipal fiber-to-the-home project  by contacting area residents in Geneva, Batavia, and St. Charles, Illinois,  asking them "survey" questions such as "Should tax money be allowed to provide pornographic movies for residents?"

What are many municipalities doing that Vermont isn't?

Many "muni-fiber plants" are built as platforms upon which **multiple providers** can offer multiple services, some completely novel.  The municipality gets the platform going long-term, and private companies can "ride" on it -- any company can use the platform to deliver  any service that might  fly in the local marketplace.  Room for many a more.  Meanwhile, in Vermont,  in the cellphone games, Governor Jim Douglas is handing a conventional platform over to single corporation to provide a single service.  Sure, others can use the same towers, but listen guys,  modern wireless technology would permit a mesh network not controlled by any single corporation nor delivering only a single service. 

A little background here.

The single most important technical fact for people to understand about their cellphones is that the cellphones can connect only to a corporation's cell tower.  But technologies exist for enabling cellphones to connect to one another.  If my cellphone can forward Mary's traffic to Tom, then our cellphones create a and extend our own network and we do not need the corporation on the tower.  There.  Now you understand why you do not have the freedom in your free market to buy such a cellphone.  Even in Vermont. 

Perhaps Gov. Douglas's wireline (fiber) platform will be more open and innovative than his wireless platform.

Photo from Evslin's blog, Fractals of Change (doesn't work in all open-source browsers; you may have to use the browser from Evslin's old company, Microsoft.  The browser is called Internet Explorer).   Anyway, the blog address:

Tom Evslin & Gov. Jim Douglas
Photo by David Zahn.
One is a nerd, the other a politician, both live in Vermont.

 top        home page