Both chambers of the Vermont legislature have given final approval to H.360 aka “The Broadband Bill.”
This VPIRG-supported bill represents the most significant investment in state history toward bringing world-class broadband internet service to every Vermonter—an investment made possible by federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
But perhaps as important as the funding itself is what entities will receive these funds.
Rather than direct precious resources to the same large telecoms that have failed to deliver affordable, reliable internet access to every Vermonter, H.360 invests in community-based solutions.
H.360 ensures that the $150 million broadband investment contained in the budget will go to the state’s Communications Union Districts and small telecom providers. Even more critically, it ensures that the funding will only go to entities that have a plan to provide universal service in their territories.
We hope and expect the governor will sign this bill into law as soon as possible.
VPIRG has long believed that jumpstarting community-owned broadband efforts is the key to addressing Vermont’s connectivity issues. H.360 does just that.
Community-owned networks are much more consumer-friendly than the giant telecoms. On average, they’re more affordable and provide better speeds than large telecoms while prioritizing bedrock consumer protection principles like net neutrality and user privacy.
There is still a great deal more work that needs to be done to bridge the digital divide in Vermont.
Notably, the state must craft a sustainable long-term solution to ensure that broadband is not only accessible to all Vermonters, but affordable as well.
But H.360 is a *major* step toward realizing our ultimate goal: universal, affordable, world-class broadband for every Vermonter.