On November 8th, five Chittenden County municipalities (Essex, Essex Junction, Shelburne, South Burlington, and Williston) will vote on whether to enter into a Chittenden County Communications Union District (CUD) with one or more municipalities.
View this 2-page infographic for an overview of this vote and its implications.
Approximately 4% of house sites (E911 addresses) in the region do not have high-speed internet. 75% have cable internet, but would be better served by fiber internet. Fiber internet service is becoming increasingly necessary with multiple devices connected for online uses such as school, telework, telehealth, and more. Only 30% of commercial sites in the region have fiber high speed internet.
SEE BELOW FOR MORE INFORMATION ON:
QUESTION TO THE VOTERS
“Shall the Town/City of [name of municipality] enter into a Chittenden County Communications Union District with one or more municipalities, under the provisions of 30 VSA chapter 82 for the purpose of improving access to broadband services?”
WHAT IS A COMMUNICATIONS UNION DISTRICT (CUD)?
A Communications Union District (CUD), is a municipal organization made of two or more towns for the purpose of building, or causing to be built, communication infrastructure together. CUDs may plan, contract, build, and manage the infrastructure that will provide high speed internet. The main function of the CUD would be to deliver public funds to the providers to build the network and to provide public oversight to ensure broadband service is provided to underserved locations at speeds of at least 100/100 Mbps in accordance with Act 71. By working together, municipalities are more likely to attract a provider and leverage financial resources. After the formation of the CUD, other municipalities can join with a vote of the Selectboard.
COSTS AND RISKS
What’s the cost to be part of the CUD and what is the risk to the municipality?
If you don’t subscribe to the eventual internet service, there is no cost to you. There are no direct costs, though a CUD may ask the municipalities to provide space for fiber optic cable, electronics, and other assets required to operate the network. A CUD has no taxing authority and must fund the build-out via grants, loans, gifts, or private investment. Membership in a CUD poses no financial risk to the town or individual taxpayers, by state statute, meaning taxpayer dollars will not be used and if the CUD fails no liability falls to the member towns or taxpayers.
How much will it cost to build the network?
The amount is currently unknown. There is a fairly limited amount of public dollars available in Chittenden County for this work because there is a relatively limited amount of unserved and underserved road miles. It may be that there is no viable financial or business plan for this sub-set of our region. However, creation of a CUD is the best opportunity available to achieve universal broadband service. The Vermont Community Broadband Board is investing in this effort. They have contracted with a consultant to work with involved towns and the CCRPC to develop a Universal Service Plan, Financial Model, evaluate options and business plan for the proposed CUD. This work should be done by January and will inform the next steps.
JOINING AND forming THE CUD
How can we join the CUD?
By voting yes on the CUD Article in November, you’re voicing your support for your municipality’s membership in the CUD. All municipalities that vote yes will become members of a CUD.
How long will it take?
Forming a CUD is just the first step in a multi-year process to plan, fund and build a network to deliver high-speed internet in the un-served areas of our region.
After a CUD is formed, what’s next?
Each member municipality appoints a representative and an alternate to serve on the CUD board. That board will work with the Vermont Community Broadband Board to develop a feasibility plan for building the network and raise funds to construct and manage it.
- View a map of broadband in Chittenden County »
- Read the full text of the state statute »
- View more information about the nine CUDs already formed in Vermont »
- View a 2-page infographic for an overview of the vote and its implications »
IN THE NEWS
- Communications Union District Forum » | Town Meeting TV
- Shelburne Mulls Joining Communications Union District » | Shelburne News
- [Williston] Town Moves Forward with Broadband Vote » | Williston Observer
- SoBu Hopes to Boost Surfing Speeds, Wi-Fi Question on November Ballot » | The Other Paper
For more information, please contact Charlie Baker, CCRPC Executive Director.