Municipalities to vote on forming broadband districts

January 7, 2020 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — More than 35 Vermont municipalities are expected to vote on the formation of communications union districts on Town Meeting Day in March.

Communications union districts are municipal organizations that allow the town or city to borrow money or apply for grants and loans to install fiber network connections to areas in need, Vermont Public Radio reported Monday.

“I would say in all corners of the state there are people looking at the issue of broadband and thinking about forming communication union districts,” said Clay Purvis, the Department of Public Service telecommunications director.

Gov. Phil Scott signed the broadband bill in June 2019 that provides more than $1 million in grants for groups looking to improve internet service.

“We have new tools, new resources available now for broadband,” Purvis said. “It’s not going to make broadband magically appear but it does give communities that want to do something about broadband a fighting chance.”

Shaftsbury Selectboard Chairman Tim Scoggins said its hard to find volunteers in a small town, however there’s been a lot of interest in this issue.

“It’s not a slam dunk at all, but this is a really important first step in getting these communication union districts up and going,” said Susan Westa a senior planner with Windham Regional Commission. “And it doesn’t make sense to do it one town at a time, especially in our rural communities.”

Vermont Town Meeting Day is March 3.