State senators want to mothball Vermont Telecommunications Authority


Key members of the state Senate want to raise the bar for broadband Internet speeds in Vermont, and they're looking to change the administration's lineup to make it happen.

A proposal in the Senate Finance Committee would fold the quasi-public Vermont Telecommunications Authority into the Agency of Administration.

The committee is also pushing for minimum Internet access speeds of 100 Mbps to every address by 2024. The current minimum standard is 0.768 Mbps for downloads and 0.2 Mbps for upload speed.

The buildout would be funded in part by increasing Universal Service Fund charges for all phone service and applying a new charge to prepaid cell phones.

The Senate Finance Committee is reassessing the state's entire telecommunications system, including legislative mandates for the VTA, the Department of Public Service, the Public Service Board, the Department of Public Safety and E-911.

Though most of Vermont now has broadband, speeds in many place are slow.

The current iteration of the proposal would fold the VTA into the Agency of Administration, replacing it with a "director of connectivity." The director would be charged with ensuring that telecom providers deliver high-speed service to every residence and business address registered with the E-911 emergency response system.

Jim Porter, director of telecommunications for the Vermont Department of Public Service, tried on Monday afternoon to put the brakes on the senators' ambitious plans.

Rapidly changing technology and a federally dominated regulatory structure prevents the state from doing much by way of broadband orchestration, Porter said.

"We should see how that evolves rather than proclaiming the address on top of that mountain shall have X speed by this year," Porter said.


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