The 2020-21 session of the Vermont legislature closed on Friday, May 21. In the final days before the gavel, a conference committee composed of three senators and three representatives finalized H.360, the bill in support of universal broadband Internet access. On the last day of the session, it was successfully adopted in both chambers.
The bill now goes on to Governor Scott, and when signed, this once-in-a-generation opportunity will become Vermont law.
H.360 is intended to protect the public interest by:
- Ensuring broadband availability to all Vermonters and Vermont addresses;
- Ensuring public accountability for maintaining and upgrading critical broadband infrastructure;
- Increasing the reliability of the electric grid and ensuring equal access to clean energy services among all electric ratepayers;
- Protecting Vermonters’ privacy and unrestricted access to the Internet;
- Alleviating the inherent tension that the Department of Public Service currently experiences as a result of its dual roles as both regulator and community project developer;
- Directing public resources to the development of public broadband assets intended to provide universal access;
- Developing favorable taxing, financing, and regulatory mechanisms to support communications union districts (CUDs);
- Providing time-limited leadership for coordinating the buildout of Vermont’s CUDs and their partners, and for developing financing mechanisms to fully support that buildout, through a newly created state entity, the Vermont Community Broadband Authority, designed specifically for these purposes.
In practical terms, the bill creates the framework by which millions of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars will flow into the state’s CUDs. Southeastern Vermont, represented by the 23-town district of DVFiber, stands to receive significant development and construction dollars.