State leaders today announced over $16 million in broadband construction grants that will bring fiber broadband speeds to residents of Bolton and several towns in the Northeast Kingdom (NEK).
Standing in front of two bucket trucks installing fiber on a stretch of Stage Road in Bolton, Gov. Phil Scott, Rep. Peter Welch and others congratulated NEK Broadband (a Communications Union District (CUD)) and Waitsfield Champlain Valley Telecom (a small, family-owned telephone operator), on receiving the grants.
“These two grants are the start of a major statewide broadband buildout effort unlike anything in Vermont since rural electrification and the highway system,” said Governor Scott. “And just like those two historic advancements, these investments, and those coming over the summer, will be just as impactful and ensure all underserved Vermonters have access to broadband.”
The first grant approved by the Vermont Community Broadband Board was awarded to the Communications Union District serving the Northeast Kingdom. The Board reviewed and unanimously voted to approve NEK Broadband’s construction grant request of $15,899,089, making it the first Communications Union District (CUD) in Vermont awarded through this program.
The funding will allow NEK Broadband to construct 215 miles of network, connecting 1,479 households along the way. Early construction will be concentrated in Concord, Kirby and Waterford, with additional miles expected in Brighton, Burke, Danville, Groton, Newark and Peacham. NEK Broadband also received $6.9 million to support pre-construction work on 2,800 miles of fiber optic cable-based internet for residents and businesses in the Northeast Kingdom.
“The grant application process was rigorous and included thorough vetting from CTC Technology & Energy, an independent fiber optic consultant contracted by VCBB,” said Carlson. “It speaks volumes to the work of our team and establishes a path for other CUDs in the state. I’m personally inspired to see the NEK leading the way.”
Executive Director Christa Shute notes that this grant was based on NEK Broadband’s Universal Service Plan. “The goal of that plan is to provide each on-grid underserved E911 address within the Kingdom access to high-speed internet connectivity.” According to Shute, “This $16M is the first batch of up to $104M in necessary grant funding for the $184M project and made possible by volunteer time, efforts, and involvement from NEK Broadband board members, as well as all towns in Orleans, Caledonia, and Essex counties and the town of Wolcott.”
The second grant was award to Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT) to complete its fiber to the home project for the remaining customers in the area it serves in the town of Bolton. The project will build to the remaining 500 locations still on copper, of which 271 are currently underserved.
The VCBB unanimously approved a grant to WCVT for $421,000. The town of Bolton is contributing $200,000, with WCVT covering the remaining $1,297,000 of the project. VCBB’s contribution was only 20% of the total project cost. The remainder was leveraged from private and local sources.
The two projects funded must be completed within the next twenty-four months. The Vermont Community Broadband Board expects to consider applications from Maple Broadband, Deerfield Valley Fiber, and Central Vermont Fiber during the month of June. The Governor and the Vermont General Assembly have appropriated $245M in broadband funding from the American Rescue Plan.
About the Vermont Community Broadband Board
The VCBB was established by Act 71 (2021)—An act relating to accelerated community broadband deployment—to coordinate, facilitate, support, and accelerate the development and implementation of universal community broadband solutions.
About NEK Broadband
NEK Broadband is a community-driven organization working to ensure every resident in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont has access to high-speed internet. Affordable internet is central to creating greater economic prosperity and educational opportunities for today’s residents and for future generations. NEK Broadband is a Communications Union District representing every town in Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans Counties, plus Wolcott in Lamoille County.
About Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom
Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom is an independent, privately owned telephone company serving the Mad River and Central Champlain Valley regions of Vermont. Locally owned and operated, Waitsfield Telecom has been providing telephone service to the Mad River Valley since 1904.
Categories: State Government
Seems like a bargain at $10000 plus per household along the way. Gotta wonder if those households would shell out for it to get connected. When does living off the grid become living off the grid? Choices should have some sort of consequence. Why do I get the feeling that somewhere in all this is a rate hike to aid in servicing the underserved communities.