The NEK Broadband CUD will hold public hearings on Tuesday, November 15, and Tuesday, November 22, 2022. Both meetings will be held at 6:00 PM (EST) via Zoom. These hearings will be held for public review and comment on the Draft Annual Report and Proposed 2023 Budget in compliance with (30 V.S.A. Chapter 082, § 3075) of the Vermont Statutes for CUDs.
FIVE TOWNS COMMIT ARPA FUNDS TO BUILD HIGH-SPEED INTERNET
Rural Collaboration Brings Broadband to Neighboring Communities Sooner
Northeast Kingdom, Vermont – Select boards in Groton, Hardwick, Peacham, Ryegate, and Walden have voted to allocate a total of $328,050 in American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) funding towards constructing additional high-speed broadband infrastructure within their communities.
The funds pledged by the five Caledonia County towns will be matched by both NEK Broadband and the Vermont Community Broadband Board (“VCBB”). The combined total of $984,150 will accelerate the construction of the initial framework of infrastructure referred to as the “backbone” of the project. By building the backbone sooner than planned, NEK Broadband expects to bring new high-speed internet to portions of 90% of the towns in the Northeast Kingdom over the next two years. The ARPA funding also enables NEK Broadband to build new infrastructure sooner to three additional towns: Danville, Lyndon, and Saint Johnsbury.
“This milestone of town participation could not have been possible without the support and engagement provided by our board members in Peacham, Groton, Ryegate, Walden, and Hardwick,” says Christa Shute, Executive Director. “We’re grateful to them for continued advocacy of NEK Broadband’s initiatives within their towns. It’s a perfect example of how a shared vision and strong-rooted sense of community can gain momentum, propelling a grassroots organization into action at the local level.”
NEK Broadband’s ARPA program has given towns the ability to invest in constructing additional miles of fiber on some side roads at the same time as the backbone, saving time and money. Once the backbone is complete, the next areas of construction will be determined using objective criteria including grant funding obligations, existing infrastructure within each town, and numbers of priority addresses as identified by the state. Priority addresses are those where school-aged children or people using telehealth services reside. These addresses were provided by schools, health care facilities, individual households, and other state agencies trying to provide services to their clientele throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Groton is contributing $40,800 of its ARPA funds to accelerate line construction, bringing service to an estimated 125 premises. 67 of those do not currently have any broadband internet, and 14 have been identified as priority addresses. Groton’s investment brought the fiber line into neighborhoods that were close enough to the town border with Ryegate that they also became eligible to participate in NEK Broadband’s ARPA program.
Ryegate is contributing a total of $76,000. The fiber internet service will reach 68 households, 58 without broadband internet, five of which are priority addresses.
Peacham contributed $30,000 to accelerate providing broadband to 165 premises in Peacham. 72 of those currently do not have broadband internet, including 14 priority addresses.
Walden contributed $40,000 to help build the equipment cabinet that will serve the entire town. Initial service on the backbone will include much of Route 15 through town plus some adjacent roads. It’ll reach 168 addresses, 54 of which are without broadband internet. 10 of those are priority addresses.
The Hardwick ARPA contribution is the largest to date at $139,500. The contribution will reach four underserved areas in rural parts of Hardwick, covering 114 addresses without broadband internet, and 162 total addresses.
At a May press conference, Governor Phil Scott announced that NEK Broadband had been awarded a nearly $16 million Construction Grant, the first Communications Union District of nine in the state to receive one. On July 22, an amendment adding $5 million to the original grant was announced. The organization had already received $8.25 million to support material purchases to deliver its fiber optic cable-based internet to residents and businesses in the Northeast Kingdom and Wolcott.
To learn more, stay up-to-date, and sign up for service once it’s available, residents throughout the Northeast Kingdom and Wolcott are encouraged to register at get.nekbroadband.org. NEK Broadband will provide ongoing updates to all those who have registered, as well as through local media outlets.
Hardwick, Vermont – NEK Broadband celebrates the announcement of a nearly $16M Construction Grant from the Act 71 Broadband Construction Program. The Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) reviewed—and unanimously voted— last month to approve NEK Broadband’s construction grant request of $15,899,089, making it the first Communications Union District (CUD) in Vermont awarded through this program.
The funding will allow the CUD to construct 215 miles of network, connecting 1,479 households along the way, explained Governing Board Chair Evan Carlson. “This is a watershed moment for our CUD,” said Carlson. “We are thrilled to now have the funds in hand to get construction underway.” Early construction will be concentrated in Concord, Kirby and Waterford, with additional miles expected in Brighton, Burke, East Haven, Lyndon, Newark, Sutton and Wheelock.
NEK Broadband is the first of nine CUDs in the state to be awarded this funding. The group has already received $8.25 million to support material purchases and pre-construction on up to 2,800 miles of fiber optic cable-based internet for residents and businesses in the Northeast Kingdom and Wolcott.
“The grant application process was rigorous and included thorough vetting from CTC, an independent consultant contracted by VCBB,” said Carlson in an email to the governing board. “It speaks volumes to the work of our team, and also establishes a path for other CUDs in the state. I’m personally inspired to see the NEK leading the way.”
Executive Director Christa Shute notes that this grant was based on NEK Broadband’s Universal Service Plan. The goal of that plan is to provide each on-grid underserved 911 address within the Kingdom access to high-speed internet connectivity. Shute underscores the significance of this $16M being the first of $104M in expected grant funds of an estimated $185M project. Shute expressed gratitude for the volunteer time, effort, and involvement from NEK Broadband board members, as well as all towns in Orleans, Caledonia, and Essex counties and Wolcott.
Residents throughout the Northeast Kingdom and Wolcott are encouraged to indicate their interest in subscribing at https://get.nekbroadband.org. On the website, potential subscribers will provide an address and contact information, and complete a brief survey. NEK Broadband will provide ongoing updates to all those who have registered as well as through local media outlets.