Peter Welsh on Closing the Homework Gap

VERMONT - Congressman Peter Welsh held a Zoom Webinar with Superintendent of Kingdom East School District Jennifer Botzojorns, and FCC Commissoner Jessica Rosenworcel on Monday evening, on how to close the broadband gap for people who live in and around the Northeast Kingdom and Vermont. Parents and Teachers of the NEK, were also in attendance. 

Many parts of Vermont, including the Northeast Kingdom have lower standards, than the national average for broadband. Many Vermont residents in remote areas of the NEK, such as Burke or Sutton-will 'run out of internet', even if they are paying for an unlmited rate from their internet provider. This is beacuse, there isn't enough cell coverage to get to these rural mountain towns. Post COVID, workers and students were able to go to 'hot spots'- such as local coffee shops, or libraries to access the internet. However, with stay at home orders many workers and students are now actually parking outside of these 'hot spots'-just so they can accomplish their work. Welsh, and other speakers of this online discussion are looking to get legislature involved in granting more state wide funding, to improve broadband-post COVID. 

"FCC defines broadband as a service, not as a ultility. Until we define it as a utility-we won't be able to recieve high speed internet as a service in the state," said Jennifer Botzojorns. 

The Kingdom East School District caters to some of Vermont's most rural students, and many families faced significant problems accessing material online, with remote learning.

"At least 65 familes of our students have not been able to get on online during a regular basis for remote instructions, this is around 20% of our school population," added Botzojorns.

A COVID world has shown many lawmakers, and familes just how important high speed broadband is to them as citizens, and workers in the state of Vermont. Welsh and Rosenworcel are looking at the future of broadband- post COVID.

"We got over a billion dollars from The Care Act here in Washington, and I'd like to see if our legislature can use some of that to fund and expand internet across Vermont. This is something we are currently working on," stated Welsh.

"There is not going to be a place that thrives if we do not have speed internet across the state, we need to meaure where service is, and is not active, so we will be able to direct federal funds to the right places," added Rosenworsol.

The state is currently waiting on how excatly the Scott Administration will fund broadband from The Care Act, but the push remains strong to get the legislature involved.