The Vermont Statutes Online
The Vermont Statutes Online have been updated to include the actions of the 2023 session of the General Assembly.
NOTE: The Vermont Statutes Online is an unofficial copy of the Vermont Statutes Annotated that is provided as a convenience.
§ 8086. Broadband Construction Grant Program
(a) There is established the Broadband Construction Grant Program to finance the broadband projects of eligible providers that are part of a universal service plan.
(b) In evaluating grant proposals under this chapter, the Board shall give priority to broadband projects that:
(1) leverage existing private resources and assets, with a high priority given to partnerships between a communications union district and a distribution utility;
(2) demonstrate project readiness;
(3) provide broadband service that complies with the consumer protection and net neutrality standards established in 3 V.S.A. § 348;
(4) support low-income or disadvantaged communities;
(5) promote geographic diversity of fund allocations;
(6) provide consumers with affordable service options; and
(7) include public broadband assets that can be shared by multiple service providers and that can support a variety of public purposes.
(c) The Board shall establish policies and standard grant terms and conditions that:
(1) reflect payment schedules that ensure maximum accountability;
(2) adopt an industry-accepted engineering standard that promotes network reliability, resiliency, and interoperability;
(3) establish standards for recouping grant funds and transferring ownership of grant-funded network assets if a grantee materially fails to comply with the terms and conditions of a grant;
(4) establish a continuity of operations plan applicable to a network owned by a communications union district that, among other things, contemplates the Board assuming operational control of a network if necessary to maintain uninterrupted broadband service;
(5) prohibit the sale or transfer of grant-funded network assets without the prior written approval of the Board;
(6) allow an applicant to seek reconsideration of an adverse Board decision;
(7) ensure project completion within a reasonable period of time and consistent with applicable federal law and guidance; and
(8) comply with Administrative Bulletin No. 5, the Agency of Administration’s policy for grant issuance and monitoring, and Administrative Bulletin 3.5, the Agency of Administration’s policy for procurement and contracting procedures, as appropriate, and any other requirements of federal law and guidance, if applicable.
(d) Before the Board awards a grant under this section, it shall determine that the applicant has produced a viable business plan for its proposed broadband project, which takes into consideration network engineering and design, labor needs and availability, supply-chain contingencies for equipment and materials, make-ready work, and any other relevant capital and operational expenses.
(e) The Board shall not award a grant to an eligible provider who is not a communications union district unless the Board determines that the provider’s universal service plan does not conflict with or undermine the universal service plan of an existing communications union district.
(f) The Board may provide a grant to an eligible provider that enables the provision of broadband service in a geographic area currently served, provided that:
(1) the proposed project is a cost-effective method for providing broadband service to nearby unserved and underserved locations that is capable of speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload;
(2) any overbuild is incidental to the overall objectives of the universal service plan required for funding under this Program; and
(3) before awarding the grant, the Board makes a reasonable effort to distinguish served and unserved or underserved locations within the geographic area, including recognition and consideration of known or probable service extensions or upgrades.
(g) It is the intent of the General Assembly that a broadband project financed under this Program demonstrates an economically sustainable business model that ultimately will be eligible for financing in the private or municipal bond market.
(h)(1) The Board shall require a communications union district that borrows funds for the purpose of financing a broadband project to immediately provide written notice to the Board in the event the communications union district becomes aware that it is at risk of financial insolvency or of defaulting on the payment of principal or interest on a loan when due. The Board, in turn, shall promptly provide written notice to the Governor, the Treasurer, and the Joint Fiscal Committee of such risk of insolvency or default and shall include in its notification a description of any potential ramifications of the insolvency or default under the terms and conditions of the applicable loan.
(2) If a communications union district defaults on the payment of principal or interest on a loan secured by grant-funded network assets, such assets may not be transferred or sold for a period of 180 calendar days commencing on the day the loan became past due. To the extent reasonably practicable, it is the intent of the General Assembly that publicly owned network assets remain publicly owned assets. (Added 2021, No. 71, § 2, eff. June 8, 2021; amended 2021, No. 179 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 19, 20, eff. July 1, 2022.)