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Vermont takes rural broadband into its own hands under new law

Published by State Scoop on June 24, 2019

By Katya Schwenk 

Vermont will fund homegrown internet service providers under a broadband expansion bill signed last week by Gov. Phil Scott. The move makes Vermont the latest in a series of states that, underwhelmed by the federal government’s solutions to provide internet access, have taken matters into their own hands.

The new law establishes a broadband innovation grant program to kickstart and fund local providers, inspired by the success of ECFiber, an ISP that serves east-central Vermont.

Improving high-speed internet access is a top priority for the rural state, which is fighting the flight of its young people and wants to attract new business. State72 300x169Twenty-seven percent of Vermont lacks access to high-speed internet, which is defined by the Federal Communications Commission as a connection having a download speed of 25 Mbps and an upload speed of 3 Mbps. Seven percent of Vermont state residents, meanwhile, lack a connection meeting a much lower standard of 4 Mbps/1 Mbps, according to the state’s Department of Public Service.

“We have been waiting for the private sector to serve us, and it hasn’t come,” Clay Purvis, the director for telecommunications at the Vermont Department of Public Service, told StateScoop. “And we’ve waited for the federal government to bring us internet service, and it hasn’t come. We’ve come to the realization that no one is going to do this for us, and we have to do it ourselves.”

Purvis said connecting the areas of the state with the most limited connectivity was the top priority of the bill signed into law on June 20.

“We wouldn’t be very tolerant of 7 percent of our state not having electricity,” he said.

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