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Published February 22, 2012 at 5:42 a.m.

Who Controls the Internet?

[Re “Monopoly Board,” February 15]: I’m not sure how this skipped past the attention of reporter Ken Picard and the copy editor, but the following line has a fairly startling inaccuracy: “The PSB is a quasi-judicial body of state government that regulates electric power, telephone and internet service, cable television, pipeline gas and some private water systems.”

Replace internet service with telegraph, and you have a winner. Internet service isn’t regulated in Vermont. Federal preemption, FCC for the win. Telegraph (of which Western Union still holds a CPG but no longer operates the service as far as I’m aware) is within their jurisdiction, however.

Neil Mortensen


Picard responds: Technically speaking, Mortensen is correct. The Public Service Board does not “regulate” internet service in Vermont, but it does regulate certain aspects of some internet providers’ operations. For example, when FairPoint Communications sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009, it had to ask the PSB for permission to amend its certificate of public good. Likewise, when the PSB discovered that Comcast had multiple violations of the DIGSAFE program, which requires utilities to mark the location of their underground lines, the PSB opened a docket to investigate. 

Wrong Neighbor?

Somebody “read their lines” wrong in the article by Megan James on the 125-year-old Burlington Neighbors Club [“Meet the Neighbors,” February 15]. The C.P. Smith referred to as the “the Burlington business owner, state legislator and namesake of a local elementary school” is my grandfather. His name was C.P. Smith Jr. John Smith is not a great-grandson of C.P. Smith Jr.

Jill Freeman Smith


On Board

Kudos to Ken Picard on this exceptionally fine article [Re: “Monopoly Board,” February 15]. It was a public service in itself to help us all learn more about the Public Service Board. In light of Vermont’s need to plan for future energy sources, we as voters need to understand who has the power to make the decisions and how they happen. Great job!

Julia Curry


A Hotel Where?

In response to Kevin Kelley’s article [“We Built This City … Now What? How Plan BTV Reenvisions Burlington,” February 1], I would suggest that a willingness to listen does not translate into audience acquiescence to a five- to eight-story hotel on the ferry dock property in front of the Ice House. I was the only one to point out that filled land subject to the public trust doctrine cannot be used for private purposes such as hotel rooms, but I’m not the only one who would oppose a hotel on this site.

Instead of a hotel there, I would strongly support a swap of city property south of Perkins Pier for relocation of the ferry dock. This would allow the city to extend the boardwalk and park space north of College Street all the way south to Perkins Pier.

And in place of the hotel, I would suggest small, seasonal retail shops rented to local artists and craftspeople to display their creations to people drawn to the waterfront for the marathon, the triathlon, the 3rd of July and all the other festivals held on the green north of the Boathouse. One- to two-story buildings would not block views from the Ice House and other structures on Battery Street. The retail complex tucked in next to the Pelican Bay Resort in Freeport in the Bahamas comes to mind as the kind of vibrant retail shopping environment that would work well at this site in the summer.

The hotel could then be built behind the new ferry docks on the old rail yard, where it won’t block any views. Hotel guests could then shop at the complex next door just as they do at Pelican Bay. This is a much better fate for the Burlington waterfront.

Rick Sharp


Opiate Alternatives

Ken Picard’s otherwise excellent article regarding Vermont’s approach to the treatment of opiate addicts completely fails to mention other medical approaches to treating opiate addiction [“Can Vermont Fix Its ‘Dysfunctional’ System of Treating Opiate Addicts?” February 8]. Methadone and Suboxone are not the only treatment options available to addicts. Many physicians and substance-abuse counselors feel that methadone and Suboxone simply replace one addiction for another and keep addicts under the thumb of a drug and within a culture of dependence. It is possible to treat withdrawal symptoms with nonnarcotic medications and wean addicts off of opiates over a relatively short period of time, if the patient is truly motivated.

When used in conjunction with appropriate counseling and community support, this approach has worked for several of my patients and those of my colleagues. Though the success rate is nowhere near 100 percent, the patients who are finally free from the cycle of addiction — be it Oxycontin or Suboxone — feel a great sense of relief and empowerment. I would encourage all opiate addicts who are truly interested in freeing themselves of addiction to discuss withdrawal therapy with their primary care provider, and follow this with intensive counseling to help them control the choices they make in the future.

Richard Burgoyne, M.D.


Racial Follow-Up

Paul Heintz’s article on Wanda Hines gives a good sense of the controversy over whether Hines puts too much energy into diversity dinners and hasn’t gotten enough minority members onto boards and commissions [“Has Wanda Hines Improved Race Relations in Burlington? Depends Who You Ask,” February 15]. Puzzlingly, the article only hints at the fact that there may actually be serious issues facing communities of color, to the point that “racial tensions in the city are nearing a boiling point.” Surely racial tensions aren’t about to boil over because of the lack of diversity in city board members. If there are real issues being raised by Hines and her critics with respect to marginalized groups, might Seven Days do a story on this?

David French


Editor’s Note: Ken Picard follows up this week with a news story on page 17.


Last week’s article “Vermont Software Firms: Taxing the Cloud Has No Silver Lining” incorrectly defined technical bulletins as a tool for changing tax regulations. In fact, the Vermont Department of Taxes issues technical bulletins to clarify the department’s interpretations of existing regulations.

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