Fiber-Optics? Not in Bethel!

You?ve got to love it when the presenter of a proposal to bring telephone, television, and high-speed Internet access at a fraction of the cost of current providers? services (in places where they are even available) asks ?does anyone not want to see these services available??
And one person, in the approximately 35 assembled, raises his hand. And he?s the Town Manager of Bethel. Continue reading “Fiber-Optics? Not in Bethel!”

East Central Vermont Fiber Network

Last night, at the request of the Town Manager and Bethel Selectboard, I attended a closed presentation on the East Central Vermont Fiber Network. In a nutshell, they are proposing to build on the community-owned fiber-optic network built by Burlington Telecom in the Burlington, Vermont area, to bring fiber to every house in 14 towns in east central Vermont.
Some notable points from the presentation:

  • The US is behind the rest of the world in terms of broadband access
    • The Upper Valley is behind the rest of the US
      • The east central portion of the state is behind the Upper Valley.
  • The fiber network would be used to provide telephone, television, and Internet access to every home that “currently has a [phone or electric] pole to it.”
  • The network would be a community-owned, not-for-profit entity. Without the profit motive, rates can be substantially lower.
  • They require an average of 12 houses per mile to make it cost-effective. Since Bethel has an average of 11.8 houses per mile, we would bump the average up.
  • The plan is that this would be a capital lease by each town, and by state law it would not be considered a debt owed by the town.
  • The packages are very competitively priced. For example, a basic rate service might include 1Mb up/down Internet access, $0.02/min local calling, $0.05/min long distance, and 20 television channels, for around $50/month.
  • The up-front cost to towns is nominal, basically some legal fees. The infrastructure is being built out by private investors.
  • They claim they will have a better acceptable use policy than, say, those of Comcast and Verizon. This would be the advantage of a community-owned network.
  • The stability and reliability of fiber-optics is significantly better than that of copper networks, which require repeaters at regular intervals and have significant range restrictions.
  • They plan to open up the service to anyone, and would have business packages available.
  • The network would use Burlington Telecom’s existing technical support and billing/customer service infrastructure.

This sounds like a fantastic idea. The downsides are small, and the advantages are numerous. Fiber optics to every home. This is this century’s “power and phone to every home.”

The US Dollar is Pathetic

During my entire childhood and most of my adult life, I’ve known that the Canadian Dollar was worth $0.75. Today, while vacationing with my wife in Montreal, QC, I exchanged $100 (US) for Canadian dollars (what we affectionately refer to as “Canadabucks”).
I handed the nice lady at our hotel’s front desk $100 (US), and she handed me back $100 (Canadian).
And 39?.
I verified that this is right in line with today’s exchange rate (1 US Dollar = 1.03853 Canadian Dollar), minus a couple of bucks for a conversion fee.
How the mighty have fallen.

Whitcomb High School is Dead. Long Live the Albert Whitcomb School

The Bethel School Board recently decided to change the name of both the Whitcomb High School and Bethel Elementary School to the Albert Whitcomb School. Let me start by saying I have no problem with the name change and I agree with the brief announcement which was made by the chair of the school board at the annual Bethel Business Association meeting.
What I do not like is that fact that the school board chose to do so with almost no input from the rest of the community. There was a warning in the newspaper. Well, I have news for town officials – not everyone reads the newspaper.
Over a year ago, I set up a blog where I encouraged all of the board members to post their issues and agenda items. All too often I had heard the “word on the street” which did not reflect reality. Why? Because Average Joe on the street does not have all of the information. Why? Because Average Joe does not attend every school board meeting. And why should he? Average Joe has a lot of other things to deal with.
But it sure would be nice if Average Joe had the ability to see what was going on at upcoming and past school board meetings without having to attend a meeting. Any why shouldn’t he? The meetings are matters of public record, and they certainly already take minutes. So why not post said minutes on the web site? Despite my repeated request and instruction on how to do this, the board has yet to publish a single meeting’s minutes.
Another thing they could do is post notices of their upcoming meetings, perhaps even to go so far as to include an agenda. However, despite my repeated urgings that they do this by filling out a simple form on the site, they have not done this even once.
On April 26, the school board posted this entry on their blog:

“Post your comments on the name change.”

That’s it. After over a year, they still don’t seem to grasp that the point of a blog is for THEM to put up some content and then give readers the opportunity to reply. So I reminded them of this by commenting on the site. I said that I would be more interested in the School Board’s motives for the name change, and how they came about with the new name. Their response is classic: they took my comment down without any explanation or response.
Two weeks ago, the school board held a special meeting to discuss the school name change. (Of course, there was no mention of this special meeting on the town web site.) I was unable to attend, but I was told of two items that are of interest to me. First, the chair of the board attempted to blame me for the lack of postings on the school board blog. This is, without a doubt, the most ludicrous, lame excuse I have heard to date. I’d rather hear something like “I don’t know how to fill out the form,” but this takes the cake. Yes, a week or so before the special meeting, the chair emailed me asking me how to set up a new category on the site. Because of work requirements, I did not have time to recover my lost administrator password and sign on to the site to investigate the problems that were reported. But that’s totally beside the point, as this had absolutely no effect on his ability to post a new entry on the site! Furthermore, why has the site laid dormant for an entire year since I put it up? Was that because of my lack of response two weeks ago? I think not.
Second, a school board member was quoted at the meeting as saying, twice, that the board has the power to make the change on their own. I am not questioning their authority or motives for the name change. What I am questioning is why they insist on operating in a closed-door, closed-mind mentality. Apparently we have another town committee who has decided to take the insular, private, closed door approach to their regular operations instead of chosing to operate in an open manner. Perhaps they think that they can operate below radar and that will attract less attention, making their day-to-day tasks easier.
Given the recent uproar over the name change, it would seem that this tactic is not working.

Three Sides To Every Story

Someone (I believe it was the rock band “Extreme“) once said there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth.
This past Monday night’s Selectboard meeting seems to be an example of this. According to the meeting minutes,

“Chairman Fox said he wished to set in place a format by which Selectboard meetings would henceforth be conducted in the interests of minimizing disruptions, providing a better opportunity for members of the public to present thoughts to the Board without interruptions, and enabling Board members to more clearly focus on matters of business. To eliminate the need for use of the photocopier periodically through the meeting, he offered Chris Costanzo, as ?Herald of Randolph? reporter, a packet of information relating to business on the evening?s agenda. Mr. Costanzo considered that the rules of procedure being set forth were an affront to his own participation at Selectboard meetings, expressed that he would no longer serve as reporter, and left at this time.”

Mister Costanzo’s account of the event is a bit different:

“At the beginning of the Monday night selectboard meeting, chairman Neal Fox announced he had a “headline” for The Herald. He said that he and the board thought I was too disruptive at selectboard meetings. He cited an instance several weeks back when another member of the public, on his own, started to make notes on the blackboard regarding some facts and figures that the selectboard was reading off, and I went up to help him. He also cited my frequent photocopying (during the selectboard meetings) of documents passed to the selectmen. And, he complained that I asked too many questions.”

Whose account is the truth? Not having been there, I can’t say. It’s probably a combination of both. I do think Chris can be a bit “intrusive” at times, in meetings, and I can see how this could slow down meetings, something that I’ve heard Mr. Fox complain about in the past about other people who attended meetings and asked questions. Does that mean he should be publicly humiliated at the opening of the meeting? Hardly. The solution is to pull him aside and discuss the matter privately.
Also, Chris is not the first person to say he was treated in a condescending manner by the chairman of the board. Complaints of this nature came out last year during election season and again in the weeks leading up to this year’s Town Meeting when Chairman Fox was re-elected.
Given that I was told by the chairman that the concerns I brought to the board are “bullsh–” I am inclined to side with Chris on this one, and to believe that the minutes may have been written to present Chairman Fox’s actions and comments in a favorable light.
What does this mean for Bethel? Well, for starters, coverage of the events in this town is going to suffer. Of this I have little doubt. Chris has done an excellent job doing so over the past several years.
Given our sudden lack of news coverage, if you have news you want to contribute, I highly encourage you to post it on the web site by clicking the “suggest news article” link at the top of every page.

Illegal Immigrants Explained

This was forwarded to me this morning, but it’s pretty much on the money, so I’ll put it up:
Let’s say I break into your house. Let’s say that when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave. But I say, “I’ve made all the beds and washed the dishes and did the laundry and swept the floors; I’ve done all the things you don’t like to do. I’m hard-working and honest (except for when I broke into your house).”
According to the protesters, not only must you let me stay, you must add me to your family’s insurance plan and provide other benefits to me and to my family (my husband will do your yard work because he too is hard-working and honest, except for that breaking in part).
If you try to call the police or force me out, I will call my friends who will picket your house carrying signs that proclaim my right to be there. It’s only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and I’m just trying to better myself. I’m hard-working and honest … um, except for … well, you know.
And what a deal it is for me!! I live in your house, contributing only a fraction of the cost of my keep, and there is nothing you can do about it without being accused of selfishness, prejudiced and being anti-housebreaker.
Now, before anyone comes back with “It’s not that simple,” let me preemptively respond with “Yes, it IS.” The key word that people seem to keep missing here is illegal. These millions of “undocumented workers” broke our laws to get here. Period. The only way that I know how you could justify this is by saying they’re here by right of conquest and, as far a I know, Mexico’s President Fox insists we’re not at war with Mexico, so I guess that’s not it.
A coworker of mine asked a couple of years ago why I was against illegal immigration, and “shouldn’t anyone who wants to come here be allowed to?” I responded by asking him “if China decided to ship about 1 billion of their citizens over to live here overnight, would that be okay? No, that would be an invasion.” The we’re letting Mexico get away with this for several reasons: we “need” their cheap labor, they’re doing it gradually, they’re our allies, it was their land to begin with, and other insane justifications.
Incidentally, for an interesting read, just google “Mexico’s southern border” to see how Mexico deals with “undocumented workers” who try to get into their country.
I don’t know, I kind of like laws. They keep things orderly, by and large. In other parts of the world where they do not have a surpluss of cheap (read “Illegal”) laborers, they use technology to overcome the smaller workforce. Take, for example, Australia’s wine industry. Over 90% of their grapes are picked by machines. Yes, machines. They say here that we could never do that, we need the workers, etc. No, we CAN do that. Our technologists are just as good as Australia’s, if not better. We’re just to lazy to want to switch. If you’re interested in more, here’s a start on that topic.
As for whether having American citizens do the jobs that “no one wants to do,” I see where that may cause some upward shifts in hourly wages. Well, according to what I’m hearing from some of my more liberal friends, that’s exactly what they want! Living wage, etc., etc. So on that grounds, they should support tighter bans on illegal immigration. And, since these “undocumented” workers will now be “documented” (read: “paying taxes,”) that should add more money to the economy, which should make both major political parties happy.
So, as I see it, the people who stand to lose here are the ones who came here illegally.