The Vermont Telephone Company filed a petition on Thursday with the Vermont Public Service Board for permission to provide television service to its rural Vermont customers.
The Springfield-based corporation must provide TV programming in order to qualify for $116 million in federal funding for broadband expansion in rural Vermont.
The USDA Rural Utilities Service grant awarded to VTel last August stipulated that the company must provide television service within its fiber footprint as part of the project. VTel applied for a certificate of public good to provide television service on June 30.
VTel’s television service would be distributed through its already planned infrastructure for Internet and telephone service.
In a memorandum of understanding, VTel and the Vermont Department of Public Service have asked the Public Service Board to fast track the approval process for the petition so that the company can move ahead with its fiber rollout.
In the company’s petition for a certificate of public good, nearly 11 months after the RUS funding was awarded, VTel requests that the Public Service Board “Proceed to review the Petition without the need for hearing, and promptly issue an order approving this Petition.”
VTel spokeswoman Sharon Combes-Farr said the company is hoping to skip the hearing process so the project, which has been in the planning phase since last August, can begin as soon as possible.
The petition states that “VTel proposes to offer cable television service consisting of channel (programming) line-ups substantially similar to the channel line-ups and tiers offered by many cable television companies in the U.S. today.”
Though VTel has not yet developed an official list of channel offerings, the company attached the Burlington Telecom channel listing as a sample of what might be offered.
VTel plans to offer at least one, and up to three channels for public, educational and governmental use, known as PEG, or public access programming.
“VTel intends to work with (access management organizations) to facilitate PEG programming in the Service Area,” the petition states. It is unclear whether VTel has been in contact with such groups regarding public access television programming.
Combes-Farr said the certificate of public good was the next logical step in the process.
“Essentially, as we went through all of the details that we have to finalize in order to get this project forward and we closed with the RUS on our grant, it was clear at that time that getting the CPG for video was the next step to complete in order to move forward to the project,” she said.
“It’s technically possible we could have applied [for the Certificate of Public Good] earlier,” said Combes-Farr. She said VTel needed to analyze its corporate structure before moving forward.
Since television is not among the services already offered by VTel, the company must do more planning and permitting to roll out this part of the project. VTel, said Combes-Farr, already had Certificates of Public Good for Internet and phone service.
“We had to look at the organization of our company to determine what’s the best overall structure of the company to look at which entity was the best” to handle television, she said.