Regional Broadband Project Begins; Kick-off Meeting Presentation Available

The Windham Regional Commission (WRC) held a region-wide meeting on Thursday, January 9th, 2020 to kick-off the new Windham Region Broadband Project.  The presentation from that meeting, which describes the elements of this project in detail, is available here.  A video of the meeting is available here.

The next meeting will be held February 6th (February 13th snow date) at 6 p.m. at the Newbrook Fire Department in Newfane and will focus on the administration of the broadband survey.

What was this meeting about?  The WRC and its partners, ValleyNet and Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc., recently received a Broadband Innovation Grant from the state’s Department of Public Service to support this effort.

This meeting was the first in a series of meetings designed to share information and gain community input.  The grant process involves two steps: 1) development of a feasibility study, and 2) development of a business plan.  The first meeting introduced the project in more detail and asked for town participation in the development of the feasibility study. 

The goal of the feasibility study is to determine the interest and need for broadband development throughout the region and the best way to implement that development.  Communications Union Districts (CUDs) have been used as a strategy to implement broadband in other regions.  The feasibility plan will identify how many and what CUDs make the most sense to provide region-wide broadband coverage based on geography and existing services. The CUD model is especially useful in rural areas to engage a critical mass to provide this infrastructure in underserved areas. 

The next step after the kickoff meeting will be the distribution of a survey to identify the level of interest and willingness to pay for these services throughout your town.  WRC needs each town that wants to participate in this process to help administer the survey by developing a strategy that will best get the survey in front of your citizens.  The entire project will be completed within six months, so we are hitting the ground running and we need your help with that!

What can towns do now?

  1. We need the selectboard of towns that want to participate in this effort to pass a simple resolution stating 1) their intent to participate in the Windham Region Broadband Project, and 2) the identification of the individual who will be the official town lead/point of contact in this effort.  You can communicate this to us by email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).  Please note that this is not intended to limit the number of people within the town who can participate in this project – the more people engaged in this effort the better!  But we need a principal town lead/point of contact.
  2. Begin thinking now about the best way to get the aforementioned survey in front of as many people in town as possible using electronic and paper formats.  We’re planning to host a workshop on or about February 6th to discuss the survey and its administration and other next steps.  While it will be critical for each town lead to participate in this meeting, it will be open to anyone who is interested.
  3. If your town has already included joining a CUD in its town meeting warning, that’s great!  If you’ve not, this process will identify what overall CUD structure makes the most sense.  So wherever you are in the CUD deliberation process, that’s fine.

What can towns expect from us?  The WRC will help convene the towns that want to participate in this process so they can be active participants in the development of the feasibility study and business plan.  We will also provide guidance and support to towns to assist them in their roles in this project – the most important being the conduct of the aforementioned survey.  Our partners will prepare the actual feasibility study and related business plan and provide technical information and advice. The purpose of the business plan is to identify the business structure(s) and function(s) most likely to succeed in providing broadband to unserved and underserved areas based upon the information gathered through the feasibility study.

What we need from participating towns.  The principal need is for towns to survey their citizens about their broadband needs and ability and willingness to pay for service.  This may be supplemented by the engagement of schools, libraries and other institutions.  This information is essential to the development of the feasibility study and an actionable business plan.  We will also seek town engagement in the review of the draft feasibility study and business plan.

The primary project contact at WRC is Sue Westa, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last Updated: 24 April 2020
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