Using money from the federal Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, the governor has proposed a $51.5 million program to deploy 100 cell towers to reach unserved wireless areas in Vermont. Administered by the Department of Public Service, the Critical Communications Infrastructure Program (CCIP) will fund the deployment of additional cell towers to expand mobile wireless voice and data coverage throughout Vermont.
As with broadband service, the need for expanded cell coverage is critical for telehealth, public safety, education, and the economy. Mobile voice service is replacing landline phone service as the dominant form of voice communication. In 2020, 71% of calls to E911 in Vermont were made from mobile wireless phones. Only 12% of Vermonters live in a landline-only household.
Without adequate cell service, especially rural Vermonters experience lack of access to health care, work, education, and loved ones. Traveling in areas where cell service is poor or absent can mean not being able to call 911 for assistance when needed.
Because the costs to deploy a new cell tower can be prohibitive -- especially in rural areas -- public subsidies are needed to ensure that rural areas have adequate cell coverage.
The CCIP will identify areas where cell coverage is needed, identify appropriate tower locations, and secure carriers to attach to deployed towers. This effort aims to expand cell service where Vermonters want and need service while encouraging siting decisions that respect the will of the community. More information about the program proposal can be found on the CCIP Proposal Presentation Document.