Vermont DPS releases final draft of the Ten-Year Telecommunications Plan
Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Department of Public Service issued the final draft of the 2021 Vermont Ten-Year Telecommunications Plan on Thursday. The Ten-Year Plan was developed in partnership with CTC Energy and Technology and Rural Innovations Strategies, Inc. The 365-page Plan provides an overview of the current state of telecommunications services and facilities in the state, current trends in usage and adoption, and recommendations for improving access to broadband services throughout Vermont.
Specifically, the Plan provides a roadmap to achieving the state’s most pressing telecommunications and broadband goals, including:
- Bringing every currently unserved and underserved on-grid Vermont home access to 100/100 megabits per second (Mbps) broadband that can be scalable to faster speeds as demand warrants;
- Leveraging residential fiber deployments into better mobile voice coverage along key roadways and in small communities;
- Ensuring that telecommunications systems are resilient, redundant, secure, and future-proof for commercial, consumer, and public safety needs;
- Facilitating competition and choice of multiple internet service providers at the majority of premises in the state;
- Promoting local input and oversight in the direction of future use for publicly funded broadband infrastructure through empowered regional Communications Union Districts (CUDs); and
- Leveraging fiber broadband expansion to ensure public safety has access to reliable and redundant communications capacity.
Communications Union District Coverage
In 2015, the Vermont Legislature authorized the formation of Communications Union Districts (CUD),22 enabling two or more towns to join together to provide communication infrastructure to residents. Much like a water and sewer or solid waste district, CUDs allow towns to aggregate demand for a service and find efficiency by sharing operation of the district.
CUDs are critical entities for closing the digital divide in Vermont. The state has promoted and supported CUDs as a mechanism for expanding broadband across the state in the most rural areas; the infrastructure the state has built around CUDs and the progress CUDs have made makes it clear that CUDs will continue to play an important role in the telecommunications landscape in the state.
East Central Vermont Telecommunications District (“ECFiber”) became Vermont’s first operational CUD in 2016 and has since served as a model for other regions across Vermont seeking to address the growing needs of unserved or underserved areas. In 2018, for instance, twelve municipalities in Central Vermont followed ECFiber’s lead to form CVFiber. By mid-2019, 27 towns in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom region voted to form NEK Broadband, which now covers 48 cities and towns and serves as the state’s largest CUD.
A growing number of municipalities across the state have chosen to join or form a CUD in the past six years. In total, nine districts representing 186 of Vermont’s 246 towns and cities have formed,24 as identified in the following table.
The Legislature earmarked $150 million for broadband in the 2022 state budget. Much of that is intended to expand the CUDs.
Coverage Along Driving Corridors and Roads
To supplement the drive-test coverage data collected by the PSD, an additional analysis was performed of mobile voice and data coverage along Vermont roadways using the propagation analysis.
In order to perform this analysis, road centerline data was retrieved from the State of Vermont’s website. The centerline data was then classified into road types to match the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s general road statistics. As this classification was not publicly available, a lookup table from Vermont Center for Geographic Information was provided via email as well as a general description on how the Agency of Transportation general road statistics were created.
Then, road polylines were intersected with cell signal polygons generated from the RF propagation analysis, identifying areas that the analysis projected to be covered through both indoor and outdoor usage, as well as sections of roads, by type, that fell within areas of mobile voice and data coverage.
The analysis reinforces the need for increased coverage along roads. Only slightly more than half (55 percent) of roads in Vermont, across all road types19, currently have mobile voice and data coverage from according to our propagation analysis (again, this number does not include roads potentially covered by towers located across state lines).
For full results by road type, see the following table.
Class 1 roads are extension of state highways running through towns. Class 4 roads are not maintained but are open to the public.
Members of the public are encouraged to provide feedback on the Plan.
The Department will hold four hearings on the final draft. Hearings will be held June 17th, 23rd, and 24th at 6 pm.
A hearing will be held with members of the Vermont General Assembly on June 22nd at noon.
Members of the public may also submit written comments to the Department. Due to pandemic restrictions, these hearings will be held online.
Information about the hearings and instructions for filing written comments can be found at the Department’s website by visiting: https://publicservice.vermont.gov/content/10-year-telecommunications-plan or by contacting Onion River Community Access Media (ORCA). The Plan is due to be finalized June 30, 2021.
Source: Montpelier – The Vermont Department of Public Service 6.11.2021