Community Broadband Upcoming Five Year Plan

Northeast Kingdom-Community Broadband is made up of 35 local towns. While other Broadband efforts are being made across the state of Vermont, NEK Community Broadband is working on expanding their telecommunication lines into Albany, Craftsbury, Greensboro, Hardwick, and Irasburg. The ultimate goal is to connect as many people in the region to high speed internet as the organization can, but NEK Community Broadband is focusing on smaller projects first to be able to get there.

The NEK Broadband team intends to build 20 miles of network through Concord Vermont into Waterford Vermont. "That will connect around one hundred fifty addresses in that area that is currently highly unserved or underserved," NEK Broadband Chair, Evan Carlson said.

The NEK Broadband Group teamed up with Kingdom Fiber last year to work on a small project. Now the two organizations are working to develop a five year plan to reach other areas of the Northeast Kingdom. But in order to make sure that happens, the plan is going to take a lot of time, and strategy building. This five year plan has a set of phases, each phase is setting a goal to reach those unversed areas all across the NEK.

"The plans are in the process of being developed, we're planning to actually release components of those plans in the May, June time frame," Carlson explains. The organization will start with their pilot project this year. Next year the organization will start looking at the layout of the infrastructure to be able to support the whole region.

Vermonters are starting to wonder when Broadband is going to be a top priority for the entire state, as covid 19 has brought more need for high speed internet. But Carlson says without the pandemic, the opportunity to address Broadband more further, may not have happened. "I think we have been fortunate in a lot of ways, the silver lining of the pandemic. There's really been a spotlight put on this problem and equities that rural Broadband has created."

Conversations are being had in high places, as Senator Patrick Leahy speaks on the American Jobs plan. "It's the rural areas that need it most. Downtowns, village centers, schools, and libraries largely have good connectivity. But gaps in the network are in the most rural areas in the state. Private companies decided it's not profitable to build out that last mile," Sen. Leahy explains. There is hope for Broadband in Vermont, as Sen Leahy says the American Job Proposal will help the effort to deliver Broadband access to the state.

As far as NEK Broadband is concerned, their next step is to submit applications for larger grant funding that's becoming available. For any further information on past projects you can visit the NEK Community Broadband website.