State, federal and private funding have helped expand broadband Internet service to 4,000 more potential customers in north-central Vermont, moving the state a step closer to its goal of high-speed Internet access in every corner of the state by the end of 2013.

Gov. Peter Shumlin joined the company Cloud Alliance in announcing it has added four new towers that will expand service to homes and businesses in Woodbury, Hardwick and Wolcott, as well as in parts of Elmore, Greensboro, Walden and Cabot. The project also will improve the speed and quality of existing service in Plainfield, Marshfield, East Montpelier and Calais, communities already served by Cloud Alliance.

The move will help produce jobs and economic opportunities in Vermont, which lags behind other states in access to high-speed Internet, the governor said.

"Vermont can't compete for jobs and economic opportunities unless we get rid of the connectivity deficit that Vermont currently has," he said.

The big challenge is the state's geography – its mountains, valleys and dirt roads, Shumlin said.

The $500,000 north-central Vermont project was funded in part by $240,000 in state funds from the Vermont Telecommunications Authority and by $80,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Central Vermont Economic Development Corporation. The rest was covered by Cloud Alliance, said Karen Marshall, head of Connect Vermont.

Cloud Alliance, a wireless Internet service provider, was formed seven years ago when a few friends and neighbors gathered together to bring high-speed Internet to the back roads of central Vermont, general manager Michael Birnbaum said.

"We're about delivering the highest technology possible. Even though we're a tiny company, even though we only serve a small segment of the state, this equipment that's on this tower is the latest and greatest and quite expensive equipment that's available, and it's going to deliver the best possible broadband to the customers who we reach," he said.

Another dozen projects are underway to extend broadband to other parts of Vermont and to improve cell phone networks, Marshall said. About 20,000 Vermont households and businesses currently are without broadband service, she said.