The Vermont Statutes Online
Subchapter 002 : DISTRIBUTION(Cite as: 30 V.S.A. § 7515)
§ 7515. High-Cost Program
(a) The Universal Service Charge shall be used as a means of keeping basic telecommunications service affordable in all parts of this State, thereby maintaining universal service, and as a means of supporting access to broadband service in all parts of the State.
(b) The Public Utility Commission, after review of a petition of a company holding a certificate of public good to provide telecommunications service in Vermont, and upon finding that the company meets all requirements for designation as an "eligible telecommunications carrier" as defined by the FCC, may designate the company as a Vermont-eligible telecommunications carrier (VETC).
(c) The supported services a designated VETC must provide are voice telephony services, as defined by the FCC, and broadband Internet access, directly or through an affiliate. A VETC receiving support under this section shall use that support for capital improvements in high-cost areas, as defined in subsection (f) of this section, to build broadband capable networks.
(d) The Commission may designate multiple VETCs for a single high-cost area, but each designated VETC shall:
(1) offer supported services to customers at all locations throughout the high-cost area or areas for which it has been designated; and
(2) for its voice telephone services, meet service quality standards set by the Commission.
(e) A VETC shall receive support as defined in subsection (i) of this section from the fiscal agent of the Vermont Universal Service Fund for each telecommunications line in service or service location, whichever is greater in number, in each high-cost area it services. Such support may be made in the form of a net payment against the carrier's liability to the Fund. If multiple VETCs are designated for a single area, then each VETC shall receive support for each line it has in service.
(f) As used in this section, a Vermont telephone exchange is a "high-cost area" if the exchange is served by a rural telephone company, as defined by federal law, or if the exchange is designated as a rural exchange in the wholesale tariff of a regional bell operating company (RBOC), as defined by the FCC, or of a successor company to an RBOC. An exchange is not a high-cost area if the Public Utility Commission finds that the supported services are available to all locations throughout the exchange from at least two service providers.
(g) Except as provided in subsection (h) of this section, a VETC shall provide broadband Internet access at speeds no lower than 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload in each high-cost area it serves within five years of designation. A VETC need not provide broadband service to a location that has service available from another service provider, as determined by the Department of Public Service.
(h) The Public Utility Commission may modify the buildout requirements of subsection (d) of this section as it relates to broadband Internet access to be the geographic area that could be reached using one-half of the funds to be received over five years. A VETC may seek such waiver of the buildout requirements within one year of designation and shall demonstrate the cost of meeting broadband Internet access requirements on an exchange basis and propose an alternative buildout plan.
(i) The amount of the monthly support under this section shall be the pro rata share of available funds based on the total number of incumbent local exchange carriers in the State and reflecting each carrier's lines in service or service locations in its high-cost area or areas, as determined under subsection (e) of this section. If an incumbent local exchange carrier does not petition the Commission for VETC designation, or is found ineligible by the Commission, the share of funds it otherwise would have received under this section shall be used to support the Connectivity Initiative established in section 7515b of this chapter.
(j) The Public Utility Commission shall adopt by rule standards and procedures for ensuring projects funded under this section are not competitive overbuilds of existing wired telecommunications services.
(k) Each VETC shall submit certification that it is meeting the requirements of this section and an accounting of how it expended the funds received under this section in the previous calendar year, with its annual report to the Department of Public Service. For good cause shown, the Public Utility Commission may investigate submissions required by this subsection and may revoke a company's designation if it finds that the company is not meeting the requirements of this subsection. (Added 1993, No. 197 (Adj. Sess.), § 5; amended 2011, No. 169 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. May 18, 2012; 2013, No. 190 (Adj. Sess.), § 5, eff. June 16, 2014; 2015, No. 41, § 11.)