Vermont Department of Public Service Awarded Rural Forest Economy Partnership Grant to Further Broadband Expansion

The Department of Public Service has been awarded a three-year, $1 million Rural Forest Economy Partnership Grant by the Northern Borders Regional Commission (NBRC) to further broadband expansion in the state of Vermont. The NBRC Rural Forest Economy Partnership Grant will further the state’s goal of universal broadband coverage for all Vermonters.

The COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrates that broadband Internet access is an essential service required for telehealth, distance learning, remote work, and disaster resiliency. Even in normal times, good connectivity is also essential for reducing out-migration from rural communities and promoting economic development.

The grant will be used to supplement infrastructure funding for Communications Union Districts (CUDs) and to support technical assistance with the CUDs via a Broadband Project Developer. 

Supplemental Infrastructure Funding for Communications Union Districts ($750,000)

This funding will supplement $1.5 million appropriated for infrastructure grants to the Communications Union Districts (CUDs). The funding will help the CUDs leverage Broadband Expansion Loans from the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA), among other sources. Grant objectives anticipate that the initial projects will generate sufficient revenue so the CUDs can leverage additional funds, including from the revenue bond market, to expand their network of financial supporters.

The Department estimates that CUDs will directly or indirectly provide broadband to at least 7,500 additional addresses.  Fiber-to-the-home service will be provided at 100/100 Mbps. The exact number of premises to be served as a result of this award depends on the individual projects, price of materials/labor, the amount of each project VEDA can finance, and other funding leveraged.

Broadband Project Developer ($250,000)

The Broadband Project Developer will assist the CUDs in accessing various public and private financial instruments to accelerate fiber-to-the-home buildouts. Technical assistance of this type will help the CUDs navigate the complicated world of financing and building high speed Internet networks.