On Friday, four Vermont regional organizations moved closer to their broadband connectivity goals as the state continues its efforts to expand access to reliable, high-quality broadband service.
The Vermont Community Broadband Board awarded a grant of $12.29 million to CVFiber in central Vermont, a grant of $21.95 million to DVFiber serving the Deerfield Valley district of Vermont, a grant of 8, $69 million to Maple Broadband of Addison County and a nearly $5 million grant to NEK Broadband to roll out fiber in the Northeast Kingdom.
The money comes from a $250 million pot of federal stimulus funds, Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, and the Vermont Legislature directed toward efforts to expand broadband.
The four regional districts that received money in the last round of grants will use it for planning, materials and construction to move closer to their connectivity goals.
Brothers Pete and James Burke said they couldn’t wait for the fiber optic cable to arrive at their family’s Marlboro home. High school students, who love games, said they had long been frustrated with the slow and unreliable DSL service.
“If you have a question, you google it – it doesn’t load,” James Burke lamented.
“There’s so much great stuff in Vermont, it’s such a shame the internet isn’t really good enough to be usable,” added Pete Burke.
Tens of thousands of addresses across Vermont have the same headaches.
The pandemic has exposed deep divides in access, creating challenges with work-from-home setups or with telehealth appointments. Some students even had to go to places like fast food parking lots to find WiFi to do their homework.
“We know that in a 21st century economy and culture, people need to be connected,” Governor Scott observed Friday, celebrating the hard work of communications unions that have received the latest grants.
Christine Hallquist, executive director of the Vermont Community Broadband Board, said that while there have been challenges — such as inflation causing steep increases in material prices — she is pleased with the progress Vermont has made in the broadband expansion.
“We plan to build over 1,400 miles of fiber with this funding this year,” Hallquist noted on Friday.
Edee Edwards of Halifax said she and others in the DVFiber district will really benefit from the service improvements.
“It’s really not just about cables,” Edwards said. “It’s about connection. Connection to our families, to our friends, to our communities and to our health.”
Hallquist said the goal is to connect every corner of the state with reliable broadband service by 2026.