« Broadband Equity NOW! | Main | The Next Few Weeks Will Decide Whether Broadband is Affordable for All Vermonters »

April 12, 2021

Federal Rescue Funds Can Immediately Rescue Low-Income Vermont Families from Broadband Gap

But the rescue needs your help!

IncarYou may have seen the TV footage last week of the Vermont high school student who has to use the WiFi in the McDonald’s parking lot to do her homework because she can’t get adequate broadband at home. What we don’t see are the people too sick to go to the doctor who can’t benefit from telemedicine because they can’t afford broadband or the people who’ve lost their jobs because they don’t have the Internet they need to work from home.

Governor Scott proposes spending $250 million of Rescue funds on connectivity infrastructure. “However,” as his proposal says: “the step of building the infrastructure alone does not address income inequality and digital literacy barriers to using the Internet.” The buildout he is proposing doesn’t reach many Vermont addresses for at least four years.

There are more low-income Vermonters who can’t afford access to very good broadband which is already available in their neighborhood than are living in the areas of the state shown as “unserved”. There is no aid for them in the Governor’s proposal or the House-passed broadband bill even though they could be connected almost immediately. Moreover, thanks to new technology like low earth orbit satellites (not SLOW like the old satellite services) and 5G, whose deployment is just beginning in Vermont, even families in the “unserved” areas can get connected – if they can afford the setup and monthly costs.

Vermont can give all low-income families regardless of location an opportunity to get online this year if we allocate $26.5 million, about 10% of the total connectivity funds, to an initiative , which is currently being considered by the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Randy Brock, who supports the initiative, says: “…broadband is useless unless it is affordable, especially for those of limited means.” 

Your help is needed to encourage Senate Finance to add this initiative to the telecom bills it is considering this week!

There are four parts to the proposal which provide for affordable broadband now and in the future:

$6 million in initial service grants to help families who cannot afford one-time setup charges which can run as high as $600 for broadband service;

$15.5 million in subsidies to the neediest to assure that they don’t have to pay more than $25/month;

$5m for a Broadband Corps to help families find the best Internet service at their location, get the aid they qualify for, and actually get connected;

A requirement (also suggested by the Governor) that those who build new infrastructure with Rescue money be required to offer low-income plans so that, as the buildout happens, Internet will be affordable everywhere in Vermont without government subsidy.

Mary and I are working with a co-founded a short-term (we hope) non-profit called Broadband Equity NOW!, both to do preparatory work for the Broadband Corp so it can be “shovel ready” if approved by the legislature and to urge the legislature and the administration to use a small part of the flood of Rescue money to immediately rescue families from the broadband gap. After Irene, we built a lot of temporary bridges so people could get home; then we did the long-term construction to replace the broken infrastructure. The pandemic has left too many Vermont families stranded offline; we need to help get them online now.

I am asking your help: if you are a Vermonter, please email or call at least one of the members of Senate Finance listed below. A Broadband Corps is already in one of the bills they are considering. Please ask them to add the small amount of funding needed to give all Vermont families the opportunity to get online now; they’ll know what you’re talking about if you call it the Broadband Equity NOW! proposal. If you can, please ask your friends to do the same.

Thank you.

• Sen. Ann Cummings, Chair; (D) Washington; acummings@leg.state.vt.us (802) 223-6043
• Sen. Mark A. MacDonald, Vice Chair (D) Orange; mmacdonald@leg.state.vt.us (802) 433-5867 senatormark@aol.com
• Sen. Christopher A. Pearson, (P/D) Chittenden; CPearson@leg.state.vt.us (802) 860-3933
• Sen. Randy Brock (R) Franklin; rbrock@leg.state.vt.us (802) 868-2300
• Sen. Michael Sirotkin (D) Chittenden; msirotkin@leg.state.vt.us (802) 999-4360
• Sen. Christopher Bray, (D) Addison; cbray@leg.state.vt.us
• Sen. Ruth Hardy (D) Addison; rhardy@leg.state.vt.us (802) 989-5278

| Comments (View)

Recent Posts

Fear Elected Trump and Biden

9/11, COVID-19, and Civil Liberties

There Was No Significant Change in the Number or Intensity of Hurricanes Hitting the Continental US Between 1900 and 2017!

What We Learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Ida

Starlink Beta vs. Fiber

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus
Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 01/2005