Tag: "Vermont"

Posted June 17, 2022 by Karl Bode

NEK Broadband has been awarded a $16 million grant by the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) to expand fiber access to 10 new Vermont communities. It’s among the earliest of what is likely to be a flurry of activity by the mostly-newly created Communications Union Districts - partnerships between rural cities and towns - which have formed over the last few years to solve the connectivity crisis for the tens of thousands of Vermonters who have been left behind by the current broadband marketplace.

A New Approach

Vermont’s broadband policy leaders say they plan to embrace CUDs as the primary avenue by which they hope to bridge the state’s long standing digital divide. A significant portion of the state’s $150 million broadband package will be funneled toward CUDs in a state where 85 percent of municipalities and 90 percent of underserved locations fall within a CUD.

The formation of most of the state’s CUDs is relatively new, though the most veteran example (EC Fiber) formed more than fifteen years ago. After years of persistence by EC Fiber, determined progress, and attitudinal changes in policy at the state level, CUDs now sit at the heart of the state’s rural broadband efforts.

Today, the municipally led CUDs can legally fund needed broadband expansions through debt, grants, and donations - but not taxes. Enter Vermont’s Act 71 Broadband Construction Grant program, which is doling out grants to the CUDs to deliver symmetrical speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) to underserved portions of the state. 

NEK Among the First

NEK Broadband is one of nine municipal partnerships called Communications Union District (CUD), scattered across the state of...

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Posted February 25, 2022 by Emma Gautier

With nearly 65,000 households unable to connect to the Internet at basic broadband speeds of 25/3 Megabits per second (Mbps), municipalities across the Green Mountain State have risen to the fore in formulating creative models for addressing the tens of thousands of homes without broadband access. Iterating on the EC Fiber (with roots back to the early 2000s), joint, municipally led projects have led to the creation of a total of nine Communications Union Districts (CUDs) at present, which places community-owned broadband at the forefront in Vermont.

What’s equally exciting is that the state has likewise stepped up, calling the CUDs the primary avenue by which it will solve the state’s connectivity crisis, and funneling at least $116 million in their direction in the next handful of years, with much of this spending dedicated to CUDs. To date, nearly 85 percent of Vermont’s municipalities and 90 percent of its underserved locations fall within a CUD. 

Otter Creek Communications Union District (OCCUD) is one of the newest additions, located in the south-central part of the state. It was conceived in July 2020 when the Vermont Department of Public Service awarded the Rutland Regional Planning Commission with a grant for a feasibility study and business plan to bring fiber broadband to the community. The town of Brandon then voted to create ​​OCCUD, and the town of Goshen voted to join the CUD soon afterwards. Today, Otter Creek comprises 14 member communities in South Central Vermont, including Benson, Brandon, Castleton, Chittenden, Fair Haven, Goshen, Hubbardton, Pittsford, Rutland Town, Sudbury, West Rutland, Poultney, Mendon, and Pawlet. 

As a new CUD, Otter Creek is still navigating the planning stages of the project, motivated by the opportunity fiber will provide to allow residents to “compete in the global economy.” Otter Creek’s feasibility study for a fiber buildout was...

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Posted February 22, 2022 by

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Will Anderson, Program Coordinator at Vermont Communications Union Districts Association (VCUDA) and Evan Carlson, Board Chair at NEK Broadband (Northeast Kingdom, VT).

During the conversation, the three discuss the origins and progress of Vermont’s Communications Union District (CUD) model, how the Department of Public Service has worked to support CUDs with better broadband mapping and data, and NEK Broadband’s journey from identifying a need to connecting their first customers. Christopher, Will and Evan also talk about how CUDs establish partnerships with local ISPs to keep broadband money circulating in the local economy and how CUDs are primed to take advantage of federal COVID relief money.

This show is 35 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Read the transcript here

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle...

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Posted January 12, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

In this episode of the podcast, we're back for another staff conversation about all that 2021 had to offer and serve up some predictions for the coming year. Joining Christopher on the show are Senior Reporter and Editor Sean Gonsalves, Community Broadband Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar, Senior Researcher Ry Marcattilio-McCracken, GIS and Data Visualization Specialist Christine Parker, and Associate Broadband Researcher Emma Gautier.

Christopher, Ry, and Sean reckon with their predictions from a year ago, with DeAnne, Christine, and Emma joining the podcast for the first time. During the conversation, we talk about the number of preemption laws we hope to see disappear in 2022, the strides taken in small and medium-sized cities to take control of their telecommunications infrastructure future, mapping, and the impact the unprecedented amount of federal money is likely to have across the country in the coming year.

This show is 50 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Read the transcript here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on ...

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Posted November 22, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

ILSR’s Community Broadband Initiative Director Christopher Mitchell recently joined Kimberly Adams on Marketplace Tech to talk about the $65 billion in the infrastructure bill that is being allocated to expanding broadband access. The pandemic exposed many inequities in our economy including the lack of robust Internet connectivity in many rural areas. The infrastructure bill is a start to mending the injustices that have existed in the broadband sector for over a decade. 

The key takeaway from the infrastructure bill, Christopher explains, is “that we are going to see unprecedented investment in rural connectivity, and we have multiple years’ worth of subsidies for low-income families, where they don’t earn enough money to be able to afford the connection that may already be available to them.” 

Vermont, one of the most rural states on the map, is a successful model for developing reliable broadband systems. “They have developed a system in which a lot of the nearby communities can band together. They work with a local provider, and that company will then use the infrastructure that is owned by the community to deliver services across it.”

Building equitable broadband infrastructure is no small feat. Critical components easily get lost in legislation, like affordable connectivity for middle-class Americans. As Christopher puts it, “What about the rest of us?” This is one success, of many, in the long fight for accessible Internet connectivity.

Listen to the episode below, or here.

This story originally appeared on ILSR.org. Read the original here.

Posted November 2, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

Join us live on Thursday, November 4th at 5pm ET for Episode 24 of the Connect This! Show, where co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Peggy Schaffer (Executive Director, ConnectMaine) and Carole Monroe (CEO of ValleyNet) to catch up on what's been happening in northern New England. They'll talk state and local developments, share their thoughts on the likely impact of the imminent broadband infrastructure money, and talk about the recent nominations by the Biden administration to the FCC.

Subscribe to the show using this feed, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback, ideas for the show, or your pictures of weird wireless infrastructure to stump Travis.

Watch here or below on YouTube Live, via Facebook Live here, or follow Christopher on Twitter to watch there.

Posted October 19, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

With American Rescue Plan funds flowing into state government coffers, about a third of the nation’s 50 states have announced what portion of their Rescue Plan dollars are being devoted to expanding access to high-speed Internet connectivity.

The federal legislation included $350 billion for states to spend on water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, though everything we have seen suggests that the vast majority of that will not go to broadband. There is also another $10 billion pot of rescue plan funds, called the Capital Projects Fund, that mostly must be used to expand access to broadband.

Laboratories of Broadband-ification 

As expected, each state is taking their own approach. California is making a gigantic investment in middle-mile infrastructure and support for local Internet solutions while Maryland is making one of the biggest investments in municipal broadband of any other state in the nation. And although Colorado does not prioritize community-driven initiatives, state lawmakers there have earmarked $20 million for Colorado’s two federally-recognized Indian tribes to deploy broadband infrastructure with another $15 million devoted to boosting telehealth services in the state.     

Undoubtedly, individual states’ funding priorities vary. Some states may be relying on previously allocated federal investments to boost broadband initiatives and/or have been persuaded the private sector alone will suffice in solving its connectivity challenges. And in some states, such as Illinois, Minnesota, and Maine, lawmakers have prioritized using state funds to support broadband expansion efforts while other states may be waiting on the infrastructure bill now making its way through Congress before making major broadband funding decisions.

As of this writing, 17 states have earmarked a portion of their Rescue Plan money (totaling about $7.6 billion) to address the digital divide within their borders. Those states are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

A handful of those states are making major investments to boost broadband with an emphasis on community-driven solutions where local governments, public entities, and non-profit organizations can...

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Posted September 7, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

Vermont’s nine Communication Union Districts (CUDs) were formed to build communication infrastructure to deliver reliable and affordable high-speed Internet access across one of the most rural states in the nation.

The East Central CUD, which owns and operates EC Fiber, has led the charge since its founding in 2011. But over the last few years other CUDs have launched their own plans to build fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks in their respective districts with each at various stages of planning or building.

Addison County is situated on the western border of the state about 35 miles west of the state capital (Montpelier), tucked between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains. The region has long been served, or rather underserved, by Comcast, as the area’s primary Internet Service Provider does not cover the most rural parts of the county, leaving many of the county’s approximately 36,200 residents with outdated DSL service.

Poor connectivity at a time when high-speed Internet access is a must for most led to the establishment of the Addison County Communications Union District (ACCUD). Headquartered in the county seat in the town of Middlebury, over the past year, the fledgling CUD has grown to include 20 adjacent towns: Addison, Bridport, Bristol, Cornwall, Ferrisburgh, Leicester, Lincoln, Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven, Orwell Panton, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham, Starksboro, Vergennes, Waltham, Weybridge, and Whiting. The CUD has taken on the name Maple Broadband and is now setting the table to provide fiber-fed Internet service for broadband-hungry residents living in some of the hardest parts of the state to reach and serve.

New Public-Private Partnership Announced

Just two weeks ago – with an eye toward bringing fiber connectivity to every address in its territory – Maple Broadband announced a partnership with Vermont-based...

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Posted July 30, 2021 by Maren Machles

The Vermont Department of Public Service released its most recent 10-year telecommunications plan earlier this month, once again prioritizing Communication Union Districts (CUDs) as the key to closing the digital divide and connecting the 51,000 households that remain unserved and underserved throughout the state. 

The nearly 400-page report outlines a community-centered plan to deploy infrastructure providing 100 megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical broadband across the state, with capabilities to increase speeds when demand warrants it. The plan maintains that the two main ways to get there are via partnerships and fiber.

The report - which was developed in partnership with CTC Energy and Technology and Vermont-based Rural Innovations Strategies, Inc. - details the importance of  optimizing the power of public-private partnership in maintaining that balance. 

The plan comes off the heels of the state legislature passing H.B. 360, a $150 million broadband bill which was funded by the federal American Rescue Act Plan, in May. The bill, now Act 71, created the Vermont Community Broadband Board and tasked the board with helping to fund and organize the deployment of broadband infrastructure for Vermont's nine CUDs.

CUDs were created in 2015, when the state legislature passed a law allowing two or more towns to join forces as a municipal entity and build communication infrastructure together. The hope was that CUDs would prompt local areas to assume responsibility and control over the broadband solution in their areas by collaborating with ILECs and ISPs. They succeeded and have been rapidly gaining steam over the last few years, with, for example, some DV Fiber currently working to serve upwards of 20 towns in the Southeast corner of the state, and NEK CUD working in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom to serve more than 50.

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Posted June 29, 2021 by Maren Machles

This week on the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher Mitchell chats with Sean Gonsalves, ILSR's Community Broadband Senior Reporter, Editor and Researcher to catch up on some of the most interesting broadband stories in recent weeks.

The two begin by discussing a recent story by Jericho Casper, ILSR Researcher and Writer, reporting more than 20 communities in New Hampshire are entering into public-private partnerships to get their residents more connected. Gonsalves also talks about his recent feature story about Northeast Kingdom Communication Union District (CUD) in Vermont and the state's unique approach to achieving universal broadband access by 2024. 

Chris and Sean end by talking candidly about the real problems with broadband in America, and the challenges we face in urban environments as well as rural swaths of the country. They talk about the real value of supporting community-owned models, and the benefits of injecting competition into a broken marketplace.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Read the transcript here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes ...

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