This week: Britaney Watson, digital equity officer at the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB), on the biggest broadband barriers for Vermonters, takeaways from the state's proposed Digital Equity Plan and more.

Nicole Ferraro, Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast

March 11, 2024

At a Glance

  • The three main barriers to broadband adoption in Vermont (02:00)
  • Status and goals of a new statewide digital navigator program (06:20)
  • The 'significant blow' of losing the ACP and possible alternatives (09:13)

This episode features Britaney Watson, digital equity officer at the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB), where she focuses on affordability, accessibility and digital skills.

Like all states and territories, Vermont has been hard at work developing plans for the NTIA's Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) grant program; and the companion Digital Equity program.

Vermont is scheduled to receive nearly $229 million for BEAD, to close its broadband deployment gaps, and over half a million to implement its Digital Equity Plan, designed to help everyone gain access. (As of this writing, Vermont is awaiting NTIA approvals on its Digital Equity Plan and both BEAD volumes.)

Unlike every other state and territory, however, Vermont has been working toward solving its broadband access problem in a unique way over the last decade: by establishing ten Communications Union Districts (CUDs), or groups of towns that form municipal entities to build out communications infrastructure. Currently, Vermont has broadband construction underway for six of its ten CUDs, and the state is taking registrations for a new broadband installer apprenticeship program to get ahead of workforce issues as BEAD dollars start to roll out.

In this episode, we discuss the remaining digital divide in Vermont, including what Watson says are still the "three major barriers" to broadband adoption in the state. We also discuss the work Watson and her team are doing to develop a new statewide digital navigator program and how that fits into Vermont's overall Digital Equity Plan. And we discuss what losing the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) will mean for the state's overall connectivity plans and goals.

Related:Vermont to kick off fiber tech training program

"We are gonna get fiber available to every passing," noted VCBB's Executive Director Christine Hallquist in a recent conversation with Light Reading. "But if the ACP is not available, then we've still got the same problem where people who are going to be on the other side of the economic divide are also on the other side of the digital divide." 

Here are a few topics covered in this episode:

  • The three main barriers to broadband adoption in Vermont (02:00)

  • Status and goals of a new statewide digital navigator program (06:20)

  • The "significant blow" of losing the ACP and possible alternatives for support (09:13)

  • Background and details on Vermont's Digital Equity Plan (13:30)

  • What's been most surprising to learn about Vermont's digital divide (16:20)

For a lightly edited transcript, click the caption button on the player above.

Read more about:

The Divide

About the Author(s)

Nicole Ferraro

Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast, Light Reading

Nicole covers broadband, policy and the digital divide. She hosts The Divide on the Light Reading Podcast and tracks broadband builds in The Buildout column. Some* call her the Broadband Broad (*nobody).

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like