Four CUDs get $9.9 million to help expand broadband

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Four CUDs get $9.9 million to help expand broadband

Tue, 11/02/2021 - 3:25pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott, Congressman Peter Welch and Vermont Community Broadband Board Executive Director Christine Hallquist announced Monday in Montpelier $9.9 million in grants to accelerate broadband expansion in four Vermont Communication Union Districts (CUDs).

The Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) is awarding Preconstruction Grants to four Communication Union Districts (CUDs). The Broadband Preconstruction Grant Program is to provide grants to Communications Union District (CUDs) for preconstruction costs related to broadband projects that are a part of a universal service plan. See full CUD coverage map below.

Eligible costs include expenses for feasibility studies, business planning, pole data surveys, engineering and design, and make-ready work associated with the construction of broadband networks, including consultant, legal, and administrative expenses.

The Vermont Community Broadband Board will issue grants for construction costs (materials, equipment, labor) early next year. Three of the four groups awarded in this first round of grants expect to begin construction in the spring of 2022.

These first grants provide nearly $10 million to preconstruction activities that will accelerate the construction timeframe in several Communications Union Districts. Currently, 200 of Vermont’s 251 towns are members of a Communications Union District. 

These volunteer-run municipal organizations are committed to building fiber-optic broadband networks exceeding the state’s goal of 100 Mbps symmetrical internet speeds to all underserved addresses in their communities. Additional grants will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

Governor Scott celebrated the investment, “We all know how important broadband is to Vermonters and our economy. Connectivity is essential to our everyday lives, the way we do business, and how we stay connected with family and friends. Making investments in this critical infrastructure will allow us to grow in all 14 counties and help us retain and attract more workers, and I’m excited this work is moving forward.”

“This grant is the single largest grant ever for CVFiber, and it clears the way to begin construction of the 1,200 mile, $50 million CVFiber Community Network in 2022,” said Jeremy Hansen, founder and chair of CVFiber. 

In a statement Senator Leahy (D-Vermont) also praised the efforts: “It is encouraging to see Vermont make early and quick use of the federal funds we secured in Congress for deploying community based broadband.  The pandemic has accelerated the shift toward online work and online education, making it more crucial than ever that Vermonters and Vermont communities have reliable, high-speed internet access.  One of my top priorities in negotiating the American Rescue Plan was ensuring our state received an equitable share of the funding so that we could leverage this moment to finally help deliver broadband to every Vermonter.”

According to Christine Hallquist,the grants issued are a testament to Vermont volunteer spirit and willingness to work together to solve pressing problems: “Vermonters have been working decades to get broadband to every address in Vermont. It is exciting to see that goal within reach. I am so grateful to the hundreds of volunteers, the legislature, the Administration and the many branches of state government that are working together to make this happen.”

Awards

Maple Broadband

Maple Broadband - $2,399,200

Maple Broadband represents 20 Addison County communities. The District has selected Waitsfield Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT) as the network operator and completed a high-level design for the network.  The Preconstruction Grant will fund pole studies and detailed design. The District hopes to begin construction next year. https://www.maplebroadband.net/

CVFiber Logo

Central Vermont Fiber (CVFiber) - $2,804,667

Central Vermont’s community Internet provider was awarded a $2.8 million pre-construction grant from the Vermont Community Broadband Board at its meeting on October 18th, 2021.  “It’s the single largest grant ever for CVFiber, and it clears the way to begin construction of the 1,200 mile, $50 million CVFiber Community Network in 2022,” said Jeremy Hansen, founder and chair of CVFiber.   The money will cover the remaining cost of the utility pole inventory for twelve communities, and all of the cost for the detailed engineering design for seventeen of CVFiber’s twenty-one member communities.  The pole inventory and high-level design should be completed by the end of this year. The detailed design will begin in 2022 and take about six months. This step is a critical element prior to starting construction. The last preconstruction activity before construction is make-ready, where the poles are prepared for the hanging of fiber.   https://cvfiber.net/

DVFiber
Deerfield Valley Communications Union District (DVFiber) - $4,111,318

The Deerfield Valley Communications Union District (DVFiber) was formed at Town Meetings in March of 2020. The district includes 24 member towns in Windham, Bennington and Windsor Counties. The Preconstruction funding enables DVFiber to proceed with the design and engineering of a high-speed fiber optic network that will reach all unserved and underserved homes and businesses within its twenty-four (24) member towns. This funding includes preparation of a high-level detailed design, engineering, and preparation of utility poles in the Phase I towns of Halifax, Marlboro, Readsboro, Stamford, Wardsboro, and Whitingham, which are those within the communications union district (CUD) with the most unserved and underserved addresses. https://dvfiber.net/
 

NWCUD

Northwest Communications Union District (NWCUD) - $604,376.25

NWCUD consists of eighteen (18) towns and villages in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. The Northwest Communications Union District's first request under the Act 71 Preconstruction Grant Program focuses on organizational capacity and pole study work.  The funding will support hiring professional staff, operation expenses, administrative & legal services.  The pole study will involve a physical survey of utility poles in the region, as needed for planning the construction of a broadband network.  Both grant activities are critical to the progress and completion of the NWCUD's comprehensive business plan and preparing to submit a Construction Grant application. https://www.nwcud.com/

For more information about the awards issued, please see the Department’s Act 71 Preconstruction Grant Awards webpage.
 
Source: Vermont Department of Public Service 11.1.2021