State News

Auditor Hoffer releases report identifying risks to Vt’s universal broadband efforts

State Auditor Doug Hoffer released a new report March 21 highlighting potential risks to Vermont’s unique strategy to achieve universal broadband access.

The Vermont Community Broadband Board is overseeing the distribution of approximately $350 million to extend high speed internet to every unserved address in the state. At the local level, 10 communications union districts (CUDs), which have been formed by groups of Vermont towns, are receiving the funds and partnering with private telecommunications companies to extend fiber to residential and business addresses and to provide service.

“This effort represents one of the largest infrastructure projects in Vermont history,” said Hoffer. “Without the massive infusion of federal funds Vermont has received, we’d be looking at incremental progress, not a universal plan. It is precisely because of the once-in-a-lifetime nature of the level of funding that we can’t afford to make mistakes.”

The report identifies 10 risks the VCBB needs to mitigate to increase the likelihood that every Vermonter will have access to 100/100 Mbps service. The risks range from supply chain issues, to federal spending restrictions, to contract and governance oversight concerns.

“I know that many people, including hundreds of unpaid local volunteers, have been working extremely hard to fill in the broadband gaps left by the large corporate telecom companies,” Hoffer added. “They’ve had to create new organizations, develop business plans, and hire contractors in short order. Our report is meant to support their work by flagging for them and state officials the things that could impede success. Far better to address these concerns before the next $250 million is spent than to regret unforced errors after the fact.”

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