05.17.10

Leahy, Sanders And Welch Urge Vermont Broadband Infrastructure Funding Under Next Federal Stimulus Bill Round

WASHINGTON – The members of Vermont’s Congressional Delegation -- U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D) -- are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) to invest in Vermont’s broadband infrastructure.  The lawmakers wrote to the agencies this week in support of the more than $219 million in broadband infrastructure applications submitted by Vermont companies and nonprofit organizations seeking Vermont’s share of $7.2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act broadband infrastructure grants.

“Each week our offices receive multiple pleas from Vermonters desperate for access to affordable, high-speed internet access,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Administrator Jonathan Adelstein and DOC National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling.  “These constituents are disadvantaged compared to many Americans and citizens of countries around the world who enjoy exponentially faster internet access speeds at a fraction of the cost compared to rural Vermonters’ access speeds and rates.  Those with inadequate access to the internet suffer economically, socially and physically as advancements in e-commerce, telecommuting, telemedicine and e-learning become more and more pervasive.”

The economic recovery plan directed RUS and NTIA to solicit and review proposals to expand broadband availability in underserved and unserved communities.  Earlier this year, the agencies announced hundreds of millions in grants from an initial proposal solicitation, referred to as Round 1,  including two NTIA grants for Vermont – a $1.2 million broadband mapping grant for the Vermont Center for Geographic Information, and a $2.5 million grant to the Vermont Council on Rural Development to help communities adopt broadband.  The lawmakers commended the approval of those grants in their letter but expressed disappointment that Vermont has not yet received any funding for broadband infrastructure itself.

“A recent University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies poll showed that only 69 percent of Vermonters have access to high-speed internet access,” the lawmakers wrote.  “National data used to prepare the NTIA’s own February 2010 Digital Nation: 21st Century America’s Progress Towards Universal Broadband Internet Access reported that Vermont ranked 38th in the nation for broadband availability.  Despite these appalling numbers, Vermont failed to receive a single Recovery Act-funded broadband infrastructure grant in Round 1.” 

The lawmakers said they highlighted all six applications they were aware of originating in the State of Vermont and serving Vermonters that have been submitted to the agencies in response to the second request for proposals.  Other applications may have also been submitted.  The applications highlighted in the letter include: Vermont Electrical Cooperative’s $4.6 million mid-mile fiber optic project in Northern Vermont; Vermont Telecommunications Authority’s $33.4 million proposal to create Vermont Fiber Link, a mid-mile fiber network increasing bandwidth and reducing broadband costs to state offices, healthcare institutions, schools and other critical customers; Vermont Telephone Company’s  $13.7 million proposal to create an open-network middle-mile hub-and-spoke fiber network to schools, colleges, public safety facilities, healthcare facilities, and telecommunications providers; East Central Vermont Fiber Network’s $44 million loan and grant proposal to build a universal, open-access, fiber-to-the-home system to 18 Vermont towns including libraries, town offices, schools, community facilities, households and businesses; Vermont Telephone Company’s $118 million loan and grant proposal to create an open-network serving 61,497 Vermont premises comprising all 33,165 un-served households, with Tri-Band 4G/LTE mobile broadband, plus fiber-to-the-home to all VTel premises; and Waitsfield Champlain Valley Telecom’s $5.6 million loan and grant proposal to provide fiber-to-the-home technology and offer connection speeds between 5 and 100 Mbps. 

The text of the Delegation’s letter is available below or online as a PDF.  More information about the RUS and NTIA broadband programs, along with more information about the Vermont applications, can be found online at www.broadbandusa.gov.

# # # # #

April 29, 2010

Mr. Jonathan Adelstein                                               Mr. Lawrence Strickling
Administrator                                                              Assistant Secretary
United States Department of Agriculture                    United States Department of Commerce
Rural Utilities Service                                                 National Telecommunications and
STOP 1590                                                                 Information Administration
1400 Independence Ave., SW, Rm 5151                    1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20250                                               Washington, DC 20230


Dear Administrator Adelstein and Assistant Secretary Strickling:

We are writing in support of several critical broadband infrastructure proposals submitted by Vermont organizations to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunity Improvement Program (BTOP). 

Each week our offices receive multiple pleas from Vermonters desperate for access to affordable, high-speed internet access.  These constituents are disadvantaged compared to many Americans and citizens of countries around the world who enjoy exponentially faster internet access speeds at a fraction of the cost compared to rural Vermonters access speeds and rates.  Those with inadequate access to the internet suffer economically, socially and physically as advancements in e-commerce, telecommuting, telemedicine and e-learning become more and more pervasive. 

Messages from constituents like those mentioned above, and a recognition by the President and Members of Congress that rural America remains underserved by our existing telecommunications infrastructure, resulted in the inclusion of $7.2 billion in broadband infrastructure funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build broadband infrastructure.  This investment aimed to connect millions of Americans to the internet at internationally competitive speeds and rates better positioning them to compete in tomorrow’s economy and aimed to put thousands of Americans to work in the telecommunications industry of today. 

A recent University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies poll showed that only 69 percent of Vermonters have access to high-speed internet access.  National data provided by the NTIA’s own February 2010 Digital Nation: 21st Century America’s Progress Towards Universal Broadband Internet Access reported that broadband availability in Vermont ranked 38th in the nation.  Despite these appalling numbers, Vermont failed to receive a single Recovery Act-funded broadband infrastructure grant in Round 1.  While our home state was fortunate to receive NTIA grants for broadband mapping and broadband aggregation, we feel it is vitally important that Vermont, one of the nation’s most rural states with many underserved rural communities, benefit from the Recovery Act’s broadband infrastructure program.

A number of Vermont for-profit and non-profit organizations have submitted proposals to RUS BIP and NTIA BTOP.  We wanted to bring your attention to these proposals in hopes that RUS and NTIA can help Vermont address its critical telecommunications infrastructure needs in Round 2. 

 Vermont NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program Applicants

  • Vermont Telecommunications Authority:  A $33.4 million proposal to create Vermont Fiber Link, a statewide, mid-mile fiber network increasing bandwidth and reducing broadband costs to state offices, healthcare institutions, schools and other critical customers.
  • Vermont Electrical Cooperative:  A $4.6 million proposal to connect 154 anchor institutions to a fiber network in Northern Vermont.
  • Vermont Telephone Company:  A $13.7 million proposal to create an open-network middle-mile hub-and-spoke fiber network to schools, colleges, public safety facilities, healthcare facilities, and telecommunications providers.

Vermont RUS Broadband Initiatives Program

  • East Central Vermont Fiber Network:  A $44 million loan and grant proposal to build a universal, open-access, fiber-to-the-home system to 18 Vermont towns including libraries, town offices, schools and other critical community facilities along with all households and businesses desiring service.
  • Vermont Telephone Company:  A $118 million loan and grant proposal to create an open-network serving 61,497 Vermont premises comprising all 33,165 un-served households, with Tri-Band 4G/LTE mobile broadband, plus fiber-to-the-home to all VTel premises.
  • Waitsfield Champlain Valley Telecom: A $5.6 million loan / grant proposal to provide fiber-to-the-home technology and offer connection speeds between 5 and 100 Mbps. 

We appreciate your fair and timely consideration of these proposals, and look forward to working with you to ensure Americans across the country have affordable high speed internet access as quickly as possible.

Should you have any questions about our support of these applications, please feel free to contact us directly.

Sincerely,

PATRICK LEAHY                       BERNIE SANDERS                   PETER WELCH
United States Senator               United States Senator             United States Representative

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693

Related Files