Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott and the Public Service Department today announced the launch of the first of three rounds of funding for the Broadband Innovation Grant program to help communities conduct feasibility studies and create business plans related to the deployment of broadband in rural, unserved and underserved areas of Vermont. If a plan is accepted, other programs could help with the actual construction.
“Expanding reliable broadband access to Vermont’s rural communities is so important in our work to increase economic and educational opportunities and enhance public safety for all Vermonters,” said Governor Scott. “I look forward to the creative thinking and solutions that will result from this grant program.”
The $700,000 in total grant funding was appropriated to the Department in Act 79 (H.513) of 2019, which aims to increase broadband deployment throughout Vermont. The program will award up to $60,000 per grant to eligible grantees, including non-profit organizations, for-profit businesses, cooperatives, communications union districts and other government entities. Grantees must deliver a feasibility study that proposes new broadband systems with minimum speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload in unserved or underserved areas. If the study indicates that a project could become cash-flow positive within three years, the Department will request an actionable business plan from the grantee.
Strategies studied and planned for may include formation of, or partnership with, a cooperative, communications union district, rural economic development infrastructure district, municipal communications plant or utility. Business plans must include engineering and design plans, financing models, estimated construction costs and ideal operational models. Studies must conclude within six months of receipt of the award and findings must be reported to the commissioner of Public Service.
“The Department of Public Service looks forward to seeing new ideas generated through this program, and we hope that these grants will jumpstart new broadband projects throughout the state,” said Public Service Commissioner June Tierney.
The Broadband Innovation Grant program will join other existing grant programs in Vermont’s growing suite of tools to bridge the state’s broadband gap. For example, the Connectivity Initiative will continue to incentivize existing providers to extend service into unserved and underserved areas, while the Broadband Innovation Grant program helps develop innovative, long-term plans that address communities’ unique challenges.
For more information on the Broadband Innovation Grant, please visit publicservice.vermont.gov or publicservice.vermont.
Source: Governor 8.7.2019