NEK Project in Vermont Moving Forward With Fresh Infusion of $15.9 Million
Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) has announced two grants totaling more than $16 million to support broadband construction projects. Most of the support – $15,899,089 – goes to the Communications Union District serving the Northeast Kingdom (NEK) to carry on a project connecting 45 rural towns in three counties to fiber broadband. NRTC is managing the NEK deployment in partnership with Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT), which is providing internet services, and local consulting firm Mission Broadband.
NRTC member WCVT is receiving the second grant of $421,000, which will go toward completing a fiber project in its own corner of the state.
“These two grants are the start of a major statewide broadband buildout effort unlike anything in Vermont since rural electrification and the highway system,” Governor Scott said during a gathering yesterday in Bolton, VT, one of the communities that will benefit from the grants. “And just like those two historic advancements, these investments, and those coming over the summer, will be just as impactful and ensure all underserved Vermonters have access to broadband.”
The Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) voted to award the two grants. It drew on funds Congress passed in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) a year ago. Vermont was among the states that acted early (PDF) to begin taking applications for ARPA funds from local communities. NRTC Funding Services is tracking ARPA and the Commerce Department’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Programs, both being administered through the states, and is assisting members interested in financing broadband projects.
“These grants will help thousands of families get connected and give our state the tools to build a reliable and accessible broadband network. This federal and state partnership is a model for how we can work together to help build stronger communities across the state,” said Vermont Representative Peter Welch (D), shown second from the right at the Bolton event.
NEK Broadband Executive Director Christa Shute (pictured right) said, “This $16 million is the first batch of up to $104 million in necessary grant funding for the $184 million project and made possible by volunteer time, efforts, and involvement from NEK Broadband board members, as well as all towns in Orleans, Caledonia, and Essex counties and the town of Wolcott.”
Also pictured are NRTC Project Manager Andrew Gaidys and NEK Broadband Community Relations Manager Nedah Warstler. The project experienced some weather-related delays over the winter but is now preparing to return to full-speed network construction, Gaidys said. Under ARPA rules, NEK and WCVT must complete their projects within 24 months of the awards’ announcement.