State issues RFP for feasibility study of electric companies offering broadband service

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State issues RFP for feasibility study of electric companies offering broadband service

Sun, 06/23/2019 - 10:07am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The Department of Public Service seeks to establish a contract with a company that can provide a Feasibility Study of Electric Companies Offering Broadband Service in Vermont. RFP responses are due by 4 pm on July 1, 2019. The contract arising from this RFP will be for a period of 12-months with an option to renew for one additional 12-month period. The state anticipates the start date will be on or around August 1, 2019, with a report ready for the Legislature by January 2020. 

The possibility of engaging the electric companies to expand broadband service into under-served areas of the state. This potential use of the electric infrastructure is part of a general effort by the Scott Administration on Internet and cell service expansion, which includes the newly signed H513, An act relating to broadband deployment throughout Vermont. The act would help establish local broadband development, similar to how a group of towns in Orange and Windsor counties got together to form ECFiber.

Governor Phil Scott signed H513 into law last Thursday in Dover. With him is DPS Commissioner June Tierney, left, Representative Tim Briglin (D-Thetford), and Representative Laura Sibilia (I-West Dover), directly behind Scott. Courtesy photo.

The study will show the DPS whether it is feasible for Vermont electric companies to provide broadband service using the electric distribution and transmission infrastructure.

Among other things, a feasibility determination shall address potential advantages of serving utilities’ internal data needs and expanding fiber for providing broadband service, the compatibility of broadband service with existing electric service, the financial investment necessary to undertake the provision of broadband service, identification of the unserved and underserved areas of the State where the provision of broadband service by an electric company appears feasible; the impact on electric rates, the financial risk to electric companies, and any differences that may exist between electric companies. The Commissioner also shall address any financial consequences and any technical or safety issues resulting from attaching communications facilities in the electric safety space as opposed to the communications space of distribution infrastructure.

(b) In performing the feasibility study required by this section, the Commissioner, in consultation with the Public Utility Commission, shall consider regulatory barriers to the provision of broadband service by electric companies, and shall develop legislative proposals to address those barriers. In addition, the Commissioner, in collaboration with representatives from each electric company, shall evaluate whether it is in the public interest and also in the interest of electric companies for electric companies to:

(1) make improvements to the distribution grid in furtherance of providing broadband service in conjunction with electric distribution grid transformation projects;

(2) operate a network using electric distribution and transmission infrastructure to provide broadband service at speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload; and

(3) permit a communications union district or other unit of government, nonprofit organization, cooperative, or for-profit business to lease excess utility capacity to provide broadband service to unserved and underserved areas of the State.

(c) Any electric distribution or transmission company subject to the jurisdiction of the Public Utility Commission shall aid in the development of information and analysis as requested by the Commissioner to complete the report required by this section.

(d) The Commissioner shall report the feasibility findings and recommendations required by this section to the Senate Committee on Finance and to the House Committee on Energy and Technology on or before January 1, 2020.

Source: Vermont DPS 6.17.2019. SEE: RFP for Electric Provision of Broadband Service Feasibility Study