Vermont set up the COVID-19 Emergency Connectivity Initiative to direct federal Coronavirus relief funds to unserved and underserved locations in need of reliable broadband. The project hopes to meet these goals by December 30, reports VermontBiz.com. More funds, totalling $3,926,650 in grant awards, were released to internet service providers this week to provide broadband to 5,800 eligible locations.
“As Vermonters adapt to working, learning, and receiving healthcare remotely, broadband internet service has become even more of an essential part of everyday life,” said Commissioner of the Public Service Department, June Tierney. “Through the Connectivity Initiative and the Get Vermonters Connected Now Initiative, the department and internet service providers are bringing much-needed broadband service to underserved locations.”
Vermont has $8,000,000 left in the COVID-19 Emergency Connectivity Initiative and Get Vermonters Connected Now Initiative (GVCNI) fund. The state plans to release the remaining amount in two rounds of $4,000,000 each. A competitive bidding process determines how the funds are distributed. The State’s Communications Union Districts have the opportunity to challenge Department recommendations in their region that they determine do not meet citizens’ needs.
“It is our hope that these grants will bring prompt relief to those who have endured poor connectivity through this pandemic,” said Clay Purvis, Department Director of Telecommunications and Connectivity.
The COVID-19 Emergency Connectivity Initiative and GVCNI are supported by H.966, thanks to the Vermont Legislature. Financial assistance is available to offset customer costs of fiber-to-the-premises installations. Eligible expenses include trenching, conduit installation, and service drops. The project aims to see minimum connection speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. Priority is given to locations with K-12 students and teachers. Locations with telehealth patients and providers and teleworkers can also benefit from funding.