I feel like the clutch has been released and we’re getting into gear.Allen Gilbert, CVFiber Delegate for Worcester, Chair CVFiber Policy Committee
Those words from CVFiber Board member Allen Gilbert tell the story: Things are heating up for community broadband, and the pace is only going to accelerate from here on. Which is good news for all of us who are waiting for reliable high-speed internet.
Here’s a quick rundown of the items in this month’s newsletter:
- The Vermont House and Senate have reached agreement on a bill that would set up a framework for universal high-speed broadband.
- We are seeking state grant funds to pay for designing our network.
- Some of that money would fund a high-level fiber network design for our entire service area.
And now the details.
House and Senate conferees have agreed on a final version of H.360, the bill to establish a regulatory framework for Vermont’s high-speed broadband efforts and provide $150 million for grants to providers. (The money will come from federal Covid relief funds.) The effort will lean heavily on communications union districts like CVFiber. The bill has already passed the Senate, and is certain to pass the House before adjournment at the end of this week. Once the bill clears the Legislature and Gov. Phil Scott signs it, “the magic starts to happen,” as CVFiber board chair Jeremy Hansen said at a recent board meeting.
There was widespread agreement among lawmakers that CUDs were the best means to reach universal broadband. The final version of H.360 allows for participation by small independent telecommunications providers, but CUDs would be responsible for the bulk of the work and would receive the bulk of available funding. There would be no role for the corporate providers who have failed to deliver high-speed broadband to rural Vermont.
This is complicated legislation, since it will create an entirely new state body with responsibility for making universal broadband a reality. Lawmakers prioritized passing this bill because they want to get construction started this year. .
We are seeking a total of $915,000 in state grants to cover pre-construction work for the CVFiber network. Assuming H.360 becomes law, CVFiber should begin to receive funds this year for pre-construction activities.
We are soliciting bids for a high-level design of CVFiber’s entire broadband network, with a goal of hiring a designer by July. This includes all the fiber that goes past every address. It doesn’t include connections to specific homes or businesses. Those details will be designed after the high-level work.
Technically, we’re preparing two separate RFPs. One would cover Washington Electric Coop’s service area, which includes most of CVFiber’s turf plus some areas served by NEK Community Broadband and ECFiber. All four entities are working together on that RFP. The other one would cover CVFiber areas outside of WEC territory.