NORTHEAST KINGDOM – Select boards in Groton, Hardwick, Peacham, Ryegate, and Walden have voted to allocate a total of $328,050 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding towards constructing additional high-speed broadband infrastructure within their communities.
The funds pledged by the five Caledonia County towns will be matched by both NEK Broadband and the Vermont Community Broadband Board (“VCBB”). The combined total of $984,150 will accelerate the construction of the initial framework of infrastructure referred to as the backbone of the project. By building the backbone sooner than planned, NEK Broadband expects to bring new high-speed internet to portions of 90% of the towns in the Northeast Kingdom over the next two years.
Walden contributed $40,000 to help build the equipment cabinet that will serve the entire town. Initial service on the backbone will include much of Route 15 through town plus some adjacent roads. The service will reach 168 addresses, 54 of which are without broadband internet.
The Hardwick ARPA contribution is the largest to date at $139,500. The contribution will reach four underserved areas in rural parts of Hardwick, covering 114 addresses without broadband internet, and 162 total addresses.
The ARPA funding also enables NEK Broadband to build new infrastructure sooner in three additional towns: Danville, Lyndon, and Saint Johnsbury.
“This milestone of town participation could not have been possible without the support and engagement provided by our board members in Peacham, Groton, Ryegate, Walden, and Hardwick,” says Christa Shute, executive director. “We’re grateful to them for continued advocacy of NEK Broadband’s initiatives within their towns. It’s a perfect example of how a shared vision and strong-rooted sense of community can gain momentum, propelling a grassroots organization into action at the local level.”
NEK Broadband’s ARPA program has given towns the ability to invest in constructing additional miles of fiber on some side roads at the same time as the backbone, saving time and money. Once the backbone is complete, the next areas of construction will be determined using objective criteria, including grant funding obligations, existing infrastructure within each town, and numbers of priority addresses as identified by the state. Priority addresses are those where school-aged children or people using telehealth services reside. These addresses were provided by schools, health care facilities, individual households, and other state agencies trying to provide services to their clientele throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a May press conference, Governor Phil Scott announced that NEK Broadband had been awarded a nearly $16 million construction grant, the first Communications Union District of nine in the state to receive one. On July 22, an amendment adding $5 million to the original grant was announced. The organization had already received $8.25 million to support material purchases to deliver its fiber optic cable-based internet to residents and businesses in the Northeast Kingdom and Wolcott.