Gov. Peter Shumlin announced the approval of more than $3.1 million toward universal broadband Internet access in Vermont on Tuesday.
Shumlin pledged that Vermont would meet the goal of universal broadband by the end of 2013, and saw the five projects funded as part of “significant progress” by the state.
“This is real progress,” Shumlin said. “We cannot grow jobs, we cannot grow economic opportunities, unless we close the connectivity gap that Vermont currently has. This is a top priority.”
The money will go to the Vermont Telecommunications Authority for five approved funding commitments for projects in about 540 locations in 59 target communities, which lack reliable broadband access. FairPoint Communications has also committed $6.6 million to help universalize broadband in the state.
Shumlin also touted his record on this front, emphasizing his own Connect VT initiative. He said locations lacking broadband dropped from 21,243 in June 2011 to 16,000 by January 2012, with about 5,000 locations successfully equipped in six months.
But Karen Marshall, who leads the Connect VT initiative, said that federal funding plays a very large role in universalizing broadband in Vermont, with about $200 million in federal funding compared to an estimated $5.5 million in state-funded initiatives in the past 18 months.
Marshall explained that while federal funds are responsible for connecting many unserved locations, the state’s role is to continually define areas which remain disconnected, and to direct resources towards those areas.
It’ll cost roughly $4,200 to connect each E911 address. The “vast majority” of the targeted 16,000 locations are already served by an established project, most of which are federally funded, said Marshall, while Connect VT identified about 2,900 other locations that required service.
Even with these new projects there will be 86 locations left where no projects are yet established. Connect VT is currently working towards projects in these areas.
Some funding for Connect VT came through a legislative capital budget appropriation requested by Shumlin last year, for fiscal year 2012, of about $10 million.