Vermont’s Department of Public Service recently released an Emergency Broadband Action Plan that is among the most aggressive of all state responses to the coronavirus pandemic. The state currently has 944 cases of COVID-19, with 54 attributable deaths. A full third of households with school children lacked broadband Internet or a computer as recently as last summer, and as the state’s teachers rushed to produce alternative learning materials after schools closed their doors in mid-March, the predictable happened: “[I]n a number of cases . . . folks really fell right off the radar,” one superintendent told VTDigger. The Emergency Broadband Action plan proposes regulatory changes and network subsidies to achieve universal broadband coverage for all citizens by 2024.
Leaving No One Behind
Currently 23 percent of the population in Vermont (totaling approximately 69,000 residences and businesses) doesn’t have access to a minimum broadband Internet connection, federally defined as a 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed. Almost a third of that group doesn’t even have access to 4/1 Mbps service.
To tackle the problem, the Emergency Broadband Action Plan (EBAP) proposes a two-step process that it calculates will cost the state somewhere between $83 million and $293 million.
Step 1 of the action plan offers a number of relatively inexpensive fixes to quickly expand access to some. It includes legislation and regulatory changes (including passing S301 or H682). This part of the plan also seeks to speed up pole attachments and other permitting, and creates a fund to help defray construction costs to homeowners living within a mile of existing cable lines who...Read more