$100 mil ticketed for rural internet

by Eleanor Lowen, Community News Service

Vermont lawmakers plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on broadband internet access expansion, much of it federal Covid relief money. This is part of a decades-long struggle to bring internet access to rural Vermonters. 

Rep. Mark Higley

While the vast majority of Vermonters have broadband internet access, some living in rural areas still do not. This is especially true in the Northeast Kingdom. 

Some of the more rural areas could have to wait six to ten years to get broadband, said Rep. Mark Higley (R-Lowell). That’s why funding for broadband is a priority. 

“There’s going to be hundreds of millions of dollars that are going to be available for projects to get fiber out to underserved and unserved areas,” said Higley. 

Some of this money may flow through Communications Union Districts. Higley was on the House energy and technology committee when Vermont created them. The districts allow towns to work together to negotiate contracts with internet providers, who will likely be more enthusiastic about working on larger contracts, resulting in better deals for the towns.  

Some of the money will go to individual towns. Additionally, $100 million of federal money may go to the Vermont Community Broadband Board’s construction grant program. Communications Union Districts and other entities will be able to use this money to help with broadband access expansion.

Broadband expansion is moving slowly partially because there are only a limited number of people who know how to install the fiber optics necessary for an internet connection. These workers are in high demand across the country, Higley said. 

According to the Fiber Broadband Association, fiber installation companies across the country are facing severe worker shortages. Workers need specific technical skills to install fiber, and the country’s demand for high-speed internet continues to rise.

Funding is another important issue, but right now there is plenty of money. Vermont is spending federal Covid stimulus money on a number of infrastructure projects, including broadband. 

“There’s just so much out there that this money is going towards,” said Higley.

8 replies »

  1. The way the NEK CUD is pissing thru money. They might get 50 homes hooked up with that kind of funding!
    In the last year our phone service has basically stopped working and out DSL barely works.
    We now are paying our property taxes under protest until this gets resolved.
    Having to drive the kids to get remote access while my wife and them sit in the car is nuts.
    Also we can no longer get 911 service via phone.
    Fine but why am I paying taxes for services I’m not receiving.
    I understand that a law firm out of the Midwest is working on a class action suit to address this here in VT that that it’ll help but at least it’ll add some stick to the equation.

  2. Every single penny of the covid relief fund is coming from increasing the national debt that has now reached over 30 trillion dollars. This impacts severely everyone.

  3. I live in South Burlington, and I still use Starlink. We don’t need any cable-running boondoggles; thanks.

  4. Need more bandwidth to push the Government approved propaganda. Think CV was bad…you ain’t seen nothing yet!

  5. You mean I won’t have to send smoke signals and beat drums any more ? SWEET ! Seriously, I don’t even have cell service !

  6. The one concept that government proves time and again, is government’s ability to waste funds and accomplish little at great expense.

  7. What the NEK CUD is failing to do is include new poles in places that would connect major loops that are in less than a mile and a half of one another. If you can already get power, phone and internet where you are, you will continue to be able to. They aren’t addressing the areas that are truly unconnected. Abbott Hill, Hollow Rd, East Hill Rd. All 3 in one town, Newark. And together would take approximately 3 miles to connect them all. These aren’t rural nowhere roads. They are main arteries to the 114, and Brighton with dozens of tax paying locals on each road. Stop selling this as bringing internet to rural areas. Its just “improving” it where it already existed.

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