MONTPELIER — Internet speed dragging you down? Not anymore, hopefully. This week, the Vermont Community Broadband Board announced the launch of a $116 million Broadband Construction Grant Program. Beginning this spring, the program will allow Communications Union Districts and other eligible providers to accelerate construction efforts to reach all Vermonters without adequate broadband service.
“Access to high quality, affordable broadband is an economic necessity,” said Gov. Scott. “That’s why we’ll continue to focus on these critical investments, that will strengthen our communities in all 14 counties.”
Act 71, an act relating to accelerated community broadband deployment, became law on June 8, 2021. It established the Broadband Construction Grant Program to provide grants to finance the broadband projects of eligible providers that are part of a Universal Service Plan. A Universal Service Plan is a plan for providing each on-grid unserved and underserved location in a Communications Union District or in a municipality that was not part of a Communications Union District, access to broadband service capable of speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload.
This year, the Broadband Construction Grant Program will provide $100 Million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to Communications Union Districts; small communications carriers; and/or internet service providers working in conjunction with Communications Union Districts to cover construction costs, like equipment and labor. Although municipalities are not considered eligible applicants under Act 71, they are encouraged to work with a provider to apply for funding.
Additionally, applicants will have the opportunity to participate in a Community Match Program to match town contributions of State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, to be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, up to a total of $16 Million. Towns are encouraged to reach out to the Communications Union Districts or other eligible provider serving their area.
“These grants will kickstart broadband expansion in the state. This first infusion of funds will allow Communications Union Districts and other eligible providers to accelerate their buildouts in communities across the state,” explained Christine Hallquist, executive director of the Vermont Community Broadband Board. “We are pleased to hear Governor Scott’s budget proposed to provide additional support for broadband expansion, since more grant funding equals lower rates for Vermonters.”
The Governor’s Proposed Budget for FY2023 includes an additional $95 Million in American Rescue Plan Act money and $100 Million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for broadband expansion.
“The results of this funding will be transformational. Universal broadband access ensures access to telehealth, remote learning, economic development and energy equity,” said Rob Fish, deputy director of the Vermont Community Broadband Board.
For more information about this funding opportunity, see the Act 71 Broadband Construction Grant Program webpage: publicservice.vermont.gov/content/act-71-broadband-construction-grant-program.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.