Expanding Rural Broadband Access in Vermont

PRS Briefs
Sunday, April 25, 2021

Nearly 42 percent of Vermonters lack access to high-speed internet,2 posing a challenge for the economic prospects of the state. Furthermore, as electricity management is becoming increasingly dependent on internet access in order to organize and allocate distribution, low connectivity levels will greatly impact the long-term energy outlook of the state. With 61 percent of Vermont residents living in rural areas,3 improving broadband access for these Vermonters would have important future implications for the state. This report to the House Committee on Energy and Technology addresses the potential benefits of a convergence between electric utilities and broadband services, explores potential concerns that may arise, and presents possible solutions to these issues. In this report, we analyze the current landscape of broadband in Vermont, consider how there is a space for this convergence of electric utilities and broadband services, and look at several case studies of how peer states have leveraged existing infrastructure and actors to successfully expand rural broadband access. We hope our findings will inform the House Committee on Energy and Technology on pathways to encourage this convergence by fostering cross-sector collaboration between utility providers, addressing various regulatory concerns, and exploring several fiscal options.