State ramps up efforts to expand internet access to Vermonters stuck at home

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State officials are making efforts to make sure Vermonters abiding by Gov. Phil scott’s stay-at-home order have access to the internet access.

Using the internet is integral to social distance guidelines, allowing people to conduct work-related meetings, visit with friends and family and complete schoolwork, said commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, June Tierney.

Tierney said the department has published a Wi-Fi hotspot map that shows where the internet can bee accessed from the safety of your car. Green areas on the map have free public Wi-Fi access. Yellow areas are password protected, while red or black indicate little or no access.

“Since this map was published at the onset of the pandemic, Vermonters have been doing things the Vermont way,” Tierney said at Wednesday’s news briefing on the COVID-19 response. “They have been crowd sourcing and sharing with us additional spots to supplement that map, so that every day it becomes a more useful tool for all of us.”

Secretary of the Agency of Education, Daniel French, said schools are working with communities to resolve access problems.

“Arlington High School purchased Wi-Fi hotspots for families and staff,” French said. “They also obtained commercial hotspots and teamed up with businesses to place them in large parking lots around town so families can have reliable access.”

In Rutland, the school district’s IT department teamed up with VTel Ericsson to provide broadband access and routers to families who did not have them. They also distributed hundreds of Chrome Books to students across the district.

Career Technical Education students are completing requirements by working with teachers on at- home projects. One student repaired a chain saw and sold it online. Other students are working on repairing farm machinery.

“For another student, the instructor delivered maple syrup to the student’s house and the student is developing a maple syrup recipe book using their family members to help taste test the recipes,” said French.

Tierney said households with connectivity problems should contact the Department of Public Service, which is trying to indentify Vermonters with spotty or no internet access.

“Until we have that information we can’t see you and if we can’t see you, we can’t help you but we very much want to,” she said.

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