With the governor signing H.360 into law, Vermont has enacted the most significant investment in state history to provide world-class broadband internet service to every Vermont resident.
Perhaps most importantly, instead of directing precious resources to the same large telecoms that have failed to deliver universal access to Vermonters, this legislation invests in community-based solutions.
This legislation directs $150 million toward the state’s Communications Union Districts and small telecom providers to build out world-class, fiber-to-the-home networks in the next few years. Critically, it ensures this funding will only go to entities that have a plan to provide universal service in their territories.
Until now, state investments in broadband have largely lacked two important components: adequate resources and accountability. The legislation signed today changes that, using federal dollars to make a significant investment in providers that are committed to universal service.
VPIRG has long believed that jumpstarting community-owned broadband efforts is the key to addressing Vermont’s connectivity issues – and the legislation enacted today 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—but today marks a milestone in accomplishing that goal.