Welch pushes USDA to improve programs supporting broadband deployment in Vermont

Vermont Business Magazine Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) sent a letter this week to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small, uplifting the concerns of Vermont-based stakeholders in broadband deployment surrounding the USDA’s ReConnect Loan and Grant Program and the Community Connect Grant Program—two initiatives that provide essential support for rural broadband deployment. During a round table discussion on broadband access hosted by Sen. Welch and Undersecretary Torres Small in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, local stakeholders identified program application requirements that have limited Vermont’s access to both ReConnect and Community Connect and called for improvements to speed broadband deployment.

“Despite significant investments, nationally, more than 33.1% of Americans in rural areas lack access to fixed terrestrial broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps/10 Mbps, compared to only 2.2% of Americans in urban areas. In Vermont, 18.6% of residents lack access to 25/3 service, while 65.5% lack access to the high-quality, high-speed broadband service speeds of 100/100 Mbps,” the letter read. “Access to broadband in the digital 21st century economy is not a luxury for rural communities; it is a necessity. I value the strong partnership USDA RD has had with Vermont and look forward to ongoing discussions with you and your staff to make the promise of these programs a reality for rural Americans.”

Convened on March 24th, Sen. Welch’s roundtable discussion included participants from Vermont’s Communications Union Districts (CUDs), the Vermont State Legislature, Vermont Community Broadband, and the Vermont Department of Public Service, in addition to USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Torres Small and USDA Rural Development State Director Sarah Waring.

Sen. Welch has long been an advocate for rural broadband access, working with colleagues across the political spectrum to speed broadband deployment in rural areas and close the digital divide. As chair of the Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, Sen. Welch will continue to push for support for broadband deployment in rural communities in Vermont and across the United States.

To read the full text of Sen. Welch’s letter to Under Secretary Torres Small, please click here.

Source: 4.21.2023. WASHINGTON – Senator Peter Welch