Vermont's new plan would mean broadband access for all

The Vermont Department of Public Service has put forth a plan that would include providing broadband internet service to those living within the Green Mountain State.

Dubbed the Emergency Broadband Action Plan (EBAP), the proposed plan is expected to cost approximately $300 million and was written under the assumption that Vermont will receive additional federal aid to support recovery efforts from the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Burlington Free Press, around 23% of Vermont, or 70,000 homes and businesses within the state, don’t currently have access to high-speed internet services. In announcing its proposal, the Department of Public Service stated that the “EBAP has one objective: to connect the unconnected to the internet in Vermont.”

To achieve this objective, the EBAP outlines a number of strategic steps that would ultimately result in providing Vermonters with broadband access. The EBAP has also proposed using a reverse-auction model that would help to achieve broadband access across the state. According to its proposal, the group anticipates deploying universal broadband access in Vermont by 2024.

June Tierney, the commissioner of the Department of Public Service, said in a statement: “The internet is necessary infrastructure that is essential for Vermonters to stay safe when they shelter at home during a crisis, such as the COVID-19 emergency.”

Tim Wilkerson, CEO of the New England Cable and Telecommunications Association, responded to the action plan, sharing: “In order to best prepare Vermont for a future where online education, telehealth, digital communication and other elements of the digital economy remain permanent fixtures in our everyday lives, we need a broadband development program that is inclusive of all providers, open to all technology and targeted to the areas that need it most.”

Before the pandemic, a number of Vermonters were without reliable broadband access. Though, their plight is not an unusual one. Rural areas across the country have long struggled to access high-speed internet services. Fortunately, the EBAP isn’t the only plan designed to provide underserved areas with broadband access. The FCC has also embarked on a number of initiatives to close the “rural digital divide.”