Select Page

Broadband and Cell

Southern Vermont Communication Union District
December 2019

The SoVT CUD Task Force is working to bring modern high-speed Internet service (fiber) to under-served areas of the Bennington County region.

By creating the Southern Vermont Communication Union District (SoVT CUD), we aim to take advantage of the recently passed “broadband bill”, Act 79. This bill encourages the formation of CUDs and provides money for feasibility studies to help them succeed.

A CUD is a governance structure (like a water or wastewater district) allowing multiple towns to band together to attack their Internet problems as a region. Recent history has shown that neither the State nor the federal government are going to solve the rural Internet problem for us, and it is too big for one town. Multiple towns working together is the proven solution.

The first CUD in Vermont was ECFiber and it is a huge success. Serving 27 towns in east central Vermont, they are providing super high-speed Internet directly to homes in rural areas. In partnership with ValleyNet, an Internet service provider (ISP), they have blazed the trail that the rest of us hope to follow.

Your town can join our effort by placing the following question on your town meeting ballot:

“Shall the Town of [my town] enter into a communications union district (CUD) to be known as the Southern Vermont Communication Union District, under the provisions of 30 V.S.A. chapter 82?”

Eleven towns are currently represented on our task force, and five selectboards have already voted to place the question on the ballot. (Bennngton, Rupert, Sandgate, Shaftsbury, Sunderland).

Key things to know about joining a CUD:
1.    Joining a CUD will not raise taxes, ever. By state law, tax money cannot be used to pay for communication infrastructure. The build-out will be paid for with grants, donations, and service fees. Most of the funding will come from the subscribers who buy the Internet service.
2.    Your town’s only real responsibility to the CUD is to appoint a representative and an alternate to the governing board. The governing board will run the CUD, define its rules and policies, and contract an ISP to provide service.
3.    This is how the State wants us to solve this problem, and CUDs are forming all over the state, including Windham County, the Northeast Kingdom, and other areas.

Don’t let your town get left behind. Town meeting ballots must get finalized before the end of January 2020. We need your help.

For more information, please contact
Tim Scoggins
sbtim@jacksonresources.com
530 330 5262

Shaftsbury’s Internet Survey

The citizens of Shaftsbury believe having Internet service is important and want the Town to do something about. That is one of the results of the recently completed Internet coverage survey in Shaftsbury. We collect 260 responses online from March 1 to April 15, accounting for about 17% of households. A summary of all results collected is here.

Some key findings:
• 92% have Internet service at home
• 50% are not satisfied with their service (No Internet + Way Too Slow + Not Fast Enough)
• 78% support efforts by the Town to extend coverage (another 8% said Maybe)

The primary purpose of the survey was to find folks who have no Internet service so we can go about addressing the problem. We recognize that an online survey might not reach those with no Internet at home. This survey is the first step. The next step will be to go door-to-door to survey more homes in areas that appear to be under-served.

Shaftsbury Cell Coverage Mapping

We have also completed a detailed data collection of cell phone coverage in Shaftsbury. Corey Chase at the VT Dept of Public Service (https://vtdigger.org/2018/11/23/vermont-official-chases-cellphone-signals-state/) recently drove major highways in the state collecting cell phone signal strength for six service providers: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Sprint and VTel. We were able to borrow his equipment and extend his survey to all roads in Shaftsbury. Corey’s data is at https://vtpsd.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=444a3d49c2374d509958f1c0e1d0d21b
He will soon be adding our detailed Shaftsbury data to this map. In the mean time, the survey data for Shaftsbury can be viewed in PDF files here:

Shaftsbury Cell Coverage

The Selectboard and the Planning Commission recognize the importance of broadband and cell coverage in the modern economy; and based on the survey results, so do the citizens of Shaftsbury. These surveys will help us address shortcomings in connectivity infrastructure in our town and will be incorporated into the Town Plan which is currently being rewritten by the Planning Commission.

Shaftsbury Telecom Survey Summary