Today, Governor Scott signed into law the most significant set of policies in years to expand and improve broadband internet access throughout the state.
H.513 – the VPIRG-backed broadband expansion bill – increases the funding needed to boost state government support for local internet startups and establishes a state revolving loan fund to help these startups succeed. It also reforms Vermont’s pole attachment rules, cutting red tape that is currently preventing local internet service providers from building the infrastructure necessary to bring high-speed Internet to unserved Vermonters.
Finally, the bill raises the bar on the internet speeds required for projects receiving state funding – ensuring that we provide Vermonters with service that is commensurate with their needs and prevent state dollars from subsidizing the construction of outdated technology.
By enacting this law, Vermont’s elected officials recognize that the large telecom providers are just never going to adequately provide universal service to Vermont communities – it doesn’t add to their bottomline. Rather than depending on the Big Telecoms, this law takes the right approach by providing our communities with the resources they need to get themselves connected.
VPIRG believes jump-starting community-owned broadband efforts is the key to addressing Vermont’s connectivity issues and we’re hopeful that the reforms contained in H.513 will do that. Because they don’t need to satisfy shareholders, community-owned networks are better able to provide universal service — reaching all the locations in their communities – even the ones that aren’t profitable.
Community-owned networks are also 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.
The passage of H.513 marks an initial but significant step toward addressing Vermont’s connectivity issues. VPIRG hopes to work with lawmakers in the years ahead to build on these successes and move Vermont much more rapidly toward universal coverage.