Important progress overcoming CoverageCo vulnerabilities

Please see the important announcement from the Governor’s office about Grace Cottage Hospital – one of a number of critical community facilities facing public safety issues as a result of the cell vulnerabilities of the CoverageCo project.

Thank you to Speaker Johnson, Governor Scott and AT&T for their preliminary response to the impending public safety issue. I look forward to participating in continued efforts to find solutions for Twin Valley High School, Readsboro and a number of other rural Vermont areas currently served by CoverageCo.

GOVERNOR SCOTT, AT&T PARTNER TO ENHANCE COVERAGE AT GRACE COTTAGE HOSPITAL

Townshend, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today announced the arrival of an AT&T Cell Site on Wheels (COW) at Grace Cottage Hospital, which will reinforce and enhance wireless network coverage for the hospital and the surrounding area.

The hospital and surrounding area were facing a loss of coverage due to a potential shutdown of wireless provider CoverageCo. The Governor worked with AT&T to ensure there would be no coverage gaps in the hospital’s critical operations.

Within five days of the Governor’s initial request, an AT&T COW arrived in the Grace Cottage parking lot. This equipment will provide more AT&T coverage than was previously available.

“Ensuring Grace Cottage Hospital does not see a lapse in wireless network coverage was a priority as we work to support the entire area impacted,” said Scott. “I appreciate AT&T’s partnership in identifying and providing this solution for the hospital and surrounding area, and the continued work of our Department of Public Service, Agency of Commerce, the Legislature and local officials on this issue. This kind of civic-minded cooperation is commendable and essential to addressing challenges like these.”

Grace Cottage Hospital and Townshend are new coverage areas for AT&T. In addition to the COW, AT&T has plans for a permanent cell site in Townshend as part of the company’s FirstNet nationwide first responder network, which benefits public safety and citizens alike.

“We were happy to work with Governor Scott and be able to quickly respond to this need for coverage in a critical area,” said Patricia Jacobs, President of AT&T New England. “In addition to the immediate coverage provided by the COW, AT&T is committed to further reinforcing and enhancing coverage for this area through FirstNet and supporting public safety efforts in whatever way we can.”

Scott sought assistance with the Grace Cottage Hospital site when it appeared that the CoverageCo small cell network would shut down at the beginning of April. Beginning in 2012, CoverageCo has been under contract with the State of Vermont to build a wireless network of small cell sites in rural areas, completing 160 of a planned 500 nodes over the past four years. However, in the face of mounting management difficulties, CoverageCo’s small cell network in Vermont may shut down, jeopardizing cell coverage along rural roadways in some of Vermont’s most remote areas, as well as for some school facilities, public safety outlets and Grace Cottage Hospital.

“We’ve been working diligently to find reasonable and sustainable pathways to preserve the gains made in these rural areas, and we are grateful to AT&T and the many partners who’ve joined us in this effort,” said Public Service Commissioner June Tierney.

Tierney added that addressing the compelling and complex issue of expanding cell coverage in Vermont’s hard-to-reach areas will remain a priority for the Department. “CoverageCo is a small private enterprise that has taken a run at the large economic challenge of bringing cell service to parts of rural Vermont where a sustainable business model has yet to materialize,” she continued. “We will continue to explore all reasonable options to help find an enduring and affordable solution for these communities.”

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