MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) – The pandemic revealed how important it is to have access to quality broadband. Vermont’s 10-Year Telecommunications Plan aims to address this and the so-called “Broadband Gap.”
The plan aims to deploy broadband to areas of the state that need it most. State leaders say with unprecedented funding and a newfound perspective, it acts as a roadmap to improve connectivity for years to come.
“We’re going to be able to go to the places that have been dealing with the worst connection. The folks that have had to send their kids to library parking lots to get their homework done to actually having some of the best broad in the country,” said Matt Dunne, Managing Director of Rural Innovations Strategies, Inc.
His company helps bring broadband to rural areas. He’s working closely with the Vermont Department of Public Service to make sure Vermonters are connected.
“When you have a governor who has to order people to stay home for the sake of public health and safety as we just experienced, there’s a terrible inequity that then comes out,” said Public Service Commissioner June Tierney.
She says, “Because if you have broadband you can abide by that order and do your part and still have some means of participating in civic life, your job – if you’re able to telecommute, telework, teleducation, telehealth.”
Tierney says tens of thousands of Vermont addresses have very slow connectivity to none at all.
“That’s anywhere from 47,000 to 60,000 addresses in Vermont,” said Tierney.
Dunne says the 10-Year Plan looks at providing access to all premises in Vermont, and the state is in good shape to do so.
“The state has spent incredible amounts of time, including driving around the state with little devices that show where there actually is service and understanding to the building who has access to what kind of broadband. That allows us to have a real number to shoot for,” said Dunne.
He estimates this will cost between $360 million and $440 million over the course of a decade. The Legislature will start allocating $150 million in American Rescue Plan dollars.
“The Legislature has agreed that that is the first objective to achieve: universal access to high speed broadband. Then, down the road, we have a roadmap for how to get to all premises,” said Tierney.
Only the draft of the plan is completed. Meaning, Vermonters have several weeks to submit comments and feedback through the department website.