M/cloudy
52°
M/cloudy
Hi 50° | Lo 29°

Vt. Cell Coverage May Improve in Rural Areas

Montpelier — Cellphone coverage should be improving along about 450 miles of rural Vermont roadways from the Canadian border to Massachusetts when a series of microcells are installed on utility poles.

The microcells, transmitters and receivers for the cell signals, have a range of about half a mile. Nearly 100 miles of the new microcells have already been installed on roadways in Caledonia, Orange and Windham counties, said Christopher Campbell, the executive director of the Vermont Telecommunications Authority, the quasi-state government agency that is overseeing the expansion of cell coverage in the state.

On Thursday, the VTA announced that it had selected Vanu CoverageCo., of Boston and Leesburg, Va., to expand the service in almost 60 towns from Canaan, along the Canadian border, to Readsboro, just north of Massachusetts.

Once it’s completed, about half the target corridors identified by the state in 2011 will be covered, Campbell said.

“It’s a pretty significant step toward achieving those goals,” Campbell said.

The VTA was created to help Vermont provide cell coverage and broadband Internet services in parts of the state where it is not economically feasible for companies to do so on their own.

Among the areas scheduled for service are Halifax, Hancock, Norton, Rochester, Roxbury, Stockbridge, Townshend and Whitingham.

CoverageCo has already installed 96 miles of coverage and is finishing up another portion of the project. Construction on the latest project should begin within weeks, CEO Richard Biby said. It should be completed by the summer of 2015.

Most of the major cell providers will be able to use the system, Biby said.

A combination of state, federal and private funds will pay for the project, estimated by Biby to cost about $2.8 million.

The microcells look like a bit like old-fashioned streetlights with a rod protruding from the top and bottom. While many people have fought the installation of traditional cell towers, there haven’t been any significant complaints about the microcells, Campbell said.

“The primary response we’ve gotten from people is curiosity and interest,” Campbell said.