by Mike Smith
I was surprised by the vindictiveness of Tom Evslin’s rant about FairPoint Vermont. Strip away all the hyperbole and this boils down to a philosophical debate, pure and simple: Should government use taxpayer dollars to compete directly with private industry and in this case overbuild existing networks? I happened to think not. And I think it is a waste of taxpayer’s money to duplicate existing networks. Now, that is simply a different philosophy than Tom’s. But to strike out –as Tom does—at a private company that employs 600 hard working Vermonters, that has made more broadband available in the last two years than any of our competitors combined, and that is right now investing $47 million in a next generation fiber IP-based network in Vermont without a government handout, is simply wrong. These efforts should be applauded, not ridiculed. Fortunately, in most places they are applauded!
So let me set the record straight without the vindictiveness and without this attempt to rip down private sector efforts.
Second, this state has plenty of middle mile networks (think of the middle mile as an interstate). If you are going to provide stimulus funding it should be directed to the last mile (to the home) where the need is greatest in Vermont. The Vermont Telecommunications Authority stimulus funded project simply overbuilds existing privately funded middle mile networks. It is a waste of taxpayer’s money and duplicates existing networks and does not bring meaningful last mile broadband to Vermonters.
Third, no one argues that when I was Secretary of Administration I was instrumental in creating the Vermont Telecommunications Authority. Others are now interpreting my thoughts. So let me set the record straight on what I was thinking. I always envisioned this authority working in a collaborative effort with the private sector, not going in direct competition with them. By deciding to become a competitor the VTA loses all objectivity and credibility in the industry. In fact, this has happened and it didn’t need to be so.
So on the WCAX show “You Can Quote Me” I suggested that we need to reconfigure the VTA to meet the real broadband needs of Vermonters; to get back to the original concept of collaboration instead of competitor; and for stimulus money to be spent where it is really needed at the last mile instead of overbuilding existing networks. That’s it! No personal attacks; no calling out individuals. For this, I am subjected to a dressing down by one of the VTA’s board members, Mr. Evslin.
It is getting to be a sad day when the opinions of leaders in the private sector are so vilified, especially at Vermonttiger.
Michael K. Smith – State President-Vermont