House Advances Broadband Expansion Bill

Today the Vermont House took one of the most significant steps in years to expand and improve broadband internet access throughout the state.

The House passed H.513 – a VPIRG-backed broadband expansion bill – on an overwhleming 139-2 vote. In doing so, legislators have recognized that the largest telecom companies will not adequately serve all Vermonters with the affordable high-speed internet access necessary in the 21st century, and they have given Vermont communities more support to tackle connectivity issues themselves.

Among other things, this bill increases the funding needed to boost state government support for local internet startups. It establishes a state revolving loan fund to help these startups undertake the initial steps to be successful and be able to service all Vermonters in their communities. And it 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.

VPIRG believes jumpstarting 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 the houses that aren’t profitable.

These 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.

VPIRG believes the bill can be strengthened by ensuring that state funding for broadband projects only go to those projects that can provide customers with 100mbps/100mbps speeds. Nevertheless, we appreciate that H.513 raises the bar on speeds to 25mbps/3mbps, at least ensuring that state dollars won’t go to the most outdated technology.