Vermont targets universal broadband Internet access in 5 years – NECN
The push is on to connect all homes and businesses in Vermont to broadband after years of frustration with slow – or no – internet service in many places.
The pandemic put more emphasis on Vermont’s digital divide, when kids had to do their homework remotely, when patients needed access to telemedicine, and when people struggled to set up home offices afterwards. that COVID-19 prevention measures had moved them away from their traditional workplaces.
“I live in a communications dead zone,” lamented Sean Kio of Enosburgh, who heads the Northwest Communications Union District, which works to expand broadband service to member cities of Franklin and Grand Isle counties.
A high school student in Barre, Vermont, says her home internet service is so bad she has to drive to a McDonald’s parking lot to do her distance learning.
Kio said he knows the frustrations of a slow internet connection firsthand.
“I couldn’t telecommute or work remotely because my internet connection at home really couldn’t handle it,” Kio said. “I had to drive hard drives to Burlington with my work because I couldn’t send files. It created a problem. “
Soon, nine regional districts are expected to take significant steps to address this kind of problem.
“Our goal is to start construction – and we’ll start construction – next summer,” said Christine Hallquist, who heads the Vermont Community Broadband Board.
On Monday, the board gave nearly $ 10 million in pre-construction grants to regional districts that are currently planning to build high-speed service to every last property on every last dirt road.
The strategy behind creating regional communication districts was to enable communities who know their unique local characteristics and challenges to effectively achieve their goals, Hallquist explained.
Tens of thousands of addresses here are considered underserved or even unserved, but the big pot of federal clawback money in the Vermont pandemic – with more infrastructure bill expectations going through Congress – has funds set aside to bridge the state’s digital divide.
Katie Greer helped develop one of the first internet safety programs in the country. She is writing her thesis on the subject and working with the police. So, Mom2Mom’s Maria Sansone thought there was no one to sit down to ask questions about how parents can feel safer with children and the internet in the ever-changing digital landscape. Presented by Hood Sour Cream.
Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, and the Democratic-led Vermont Legislature both see high-speed internet access as key to long-term economic growth.
“We know people want to come here,” Scott said. “They want to take advantage of all that Vermont has to offer. But without good broadband or enough housing, we can’t compete.”
CVFiber, the district that is working to provide high-speed universal service to communities in central Vermont, has received a pre-construction grant of $ 2.8 million, Hallquist said.
“Without this grant, the process would probably take 10 years,” said Jeremy Hansen of CVFiber.
Hallquist said that by deploying federal funding, the goal now is to achieve 100% of Vermont homes and businesses access to broadband service within five years.
Hansen said he often hears realtors talking about listings that have disappointing web connections.
“I know it kept people out,” Hansen noted. “I’ve heard people ask us, ‘Is there a service here? And I tell them, ‘Not really at the moment.’ They say, ‘Okay, thank you’ and we never hear from them again. “
Hallquist acknowledged that the Vermont Community Broadband Board expects challenges for sourcing materials and finding labor, but said the organization is already trying to find a way around them, including by pre-ordering materials.