Windham Region Broadband Project

Staff contact:  Susan Westa, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

The Windham Regional Commission (WRC) and its partners, ValleyNet and Rural Innovation Strategies Inc. (RISI) were awarded a Broadband Innovation Grant (BIG) in late December 2019. The resulting Windham Region Broadband Project was informed by the hard work of many town broadband committees and other volunteer efforts, as well as education and outreach organized by the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation.

 

Broadband Feasibility Approved, and Webinar Scheduled June 24, 2020

The Windham Region Broadband Project reached an important milestone last week. The Feasibility Study was approved by the Vermont Public Service Department. This approval was required before the project can move forward with business plan development.

WRC will host a live online webinar to share the findings and recommendations of the Feasibility Study. Click here for a meeting agenda.

When: Wednesday, June 24th, 2020 at 6:00 PM
Where: Zoom Virtual Meeting

Please Register with Susan Westa at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 802-257-4547, Ext. 108. Registration is free but space is limited. We will distribute a copy of the presentation to all registrants 2 days before the meeting. This is important for those who cannot access the webinar online. 

The webinar will also be recorded and posted on WRC’s website for all to view after the above date.

Zoom Meeting Link
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82783247868 
Meeting ID: 827 8324 7868
Or Call in 646-558-8656

   

 

Broadband Survey

 

Why Broadband?

WRC understands the importance of high-quality, high-speed and reliable internet access to our communities for many reasons – connecting students with teachers and online education resources, connecting patients with medical providers, connecting rural businesses with clients and employers with employees, as well as for entertainment and news. Broadband can provide that level of service to Windham Region communities that are currently unserved and underserved.

What does this mean for the Windham Region?

The Broadband Innovation Grant (BIG) includes funding for a feasibility study and a business plan that will inform the region about how to best implement broadband service to unserved and underserved communities. ValleyNet and RISI will provide technical assistance, while WRC will lead the community engagement effort. In the end, communities can decide if they want to be part of a Communications Union District that will oversee the implementation of broadband service throughout the region.

WRC held a kick off meeting on January 16, 2020 to help spread the word about the project and to encourage communities to participate. There were over sixty attendees. 

 

Project Overview (Jan. 16 meeting presentation)

Jan. 16 meeting video 


Project Summary Sheet

 

FAQ’s

What is the ultimate goal of the Windham Region Broadband Project?
The goal is to provide participating Windham Region towns with the strategy and plan they need to deploy fiber broadband to residents and businesses. The end product of this project will be a Feasibility Study and Business Plan.

When will the Windham Region Broadband Project be complete?
The entire project will be completed by July-August 2020. The feasibility study will be completed by the end of April 2020. The business plan will be completed within 2-3 months of approval of the feasibility study by the VT Department of Public Service.

What is a CUD?
Communications Union Districts allow two or more towns to join together as a municipal entity for a means of building communication infrastructure. For more information see Title 30: Public Service, Chapter 82: Communications Union Districts in Vermont state statutes.

What are the benefits of my town joining a CUD?

  • Aggregate Demand – Mixing dense and less dense towns makes the project more attractive to providers/ AND MORE NEGOTIATING POWER.
  • Entire region can benefit.
  • Funders are familiar with Municipal Districts, such as solid waste and wastewater districts.
  • Efficiency - Network design, construction, and operation can all be more efficient when planned from the onset.
  • Town boundaries are irrelevant – Roads, topography, and settlement patterns are more important.
  • Additional Funding Opportunities – Easier access to federal state grants and loans that require providing services to those least served. VEDA Loan Program.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel – Share resources and lessons learned.

How many towns should be in a CUD?
At least two towns are required to start, but there is no limit. Member towns do not need to be contiguous.

How does a town join the CUD?
A town can join a CUD in two ways:

  • The initial CUD must be established through a town meeting vote in all towns that are founding members.
  • After initial CUD is formed a member town can be added through a Selectboard vote.

What is the cost of being part of a CUD to the taxpayer and town?
The taxpayer and town are not required to pay anything to be a part of a CUD. A CUD may ask the town to provide space for a communications plant to store fiber optic cable, electronics and other assets required to operate a network.

Is the taxpayer or town liable if the CUD goes belly up?
No. 30 V.S.A. § 3053 states, “To the extent a district constructs communications infrastructure with the intent of providing communications services, the district shall ensure that any and all losses from these services, or in the event these services are abandoned or curtailed, any and all costs associated with the investment in communications infrastructure, are not borne by the taxpayers of district members.” All fiber assets and built infrastructure of the CUD are liable to seizure.

Is a CUD funded by taxes?
No. 30 V.S.A. § 3056 states, “a district shall not accept funds generated by a member's taxing or assessment power” and “a district shall not have the power to levy, assess, apportion, or collect any tax upon property within the district, nor upon any of its members, without specific authorization of the General Assembly.”

How will construction and operation be financed?
Build out can be financed by grants, federal loans and municipal revenue bonds. Subscriber fees will be used to finance construction and operations.

 

Last Updated: 10 June 2020
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