Vermont’s High-Cost Program
Vermont’s High-Cost Program was created by Act 190 in 2014 and it is in 30 V.S.A. § 7515.
The High-Cost Program is intended to maintain a robust and modern telecommunications network in Vermont by making strategic investments in improved technology for all Vermonters. It is the purpose of Act 190 to create a financial structure that will allow every Vermont household to obtain basic telecommunications service at an affordable price, and to finance that structure with a proportional charge on all telecommunications transactions that interact with the public switched network.
Act 190 provides funding to certain telecommunications providers in Vermont so they can make capital improvements to build broadband capable networks in areas of the state where broadband capable networks might not otherwise be built.
Currently, the Board has issued an order creating a temporary program that will enable telecommunications providers in Vermont to make capital improvements to build broadband capable networks. The Board is also working on creating rules that will govern the program going forward into the future.
High Cost Order establishing the temporary program.
Vermont’s Universal Service Fund
The Vermont Universal Service Fund (VUSF) was established by Vermont law in 1994 through the enactment of 30 V.S.A. § 7501. The VUSF creates a financial structure that allows every Vermont household to obtain basic telecommunications service at an affordable price and to finance that structure with a proportional charge on all telecommunications transactions that interact with the public switched network.
Consumers of retail telecommunications services in Vermont are billed a fee by their service provider to support the VUSF. Service providers deposit the collected fees into the VUSF, which supports programs for Vermonters through the Telephone Relay Service and the Equipment Distribution Program, the Enhanced 911 network, the Lifeline Program, and the Connectivity Fund.
Federal Universal Service and the Connect America Fund
Universal service is the idea that all Americans should have access to communications services. It is also the name of a fund and a group of programs operated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Federal universal service policies have helped make telephone service available everywhere in the United States, even in remote rural areas.
The FCC has recently recognized that high-speed internet is also an essential communications technology. The Connect America Fund is a significant FCC effort to make broadband more available to more Americans. In December of 2014, the FCC issued an order adopting comprehensive reforms to accelerate a broadband build-out to approximately 23 million Americans who lack access to infrastructure capable of providing 10/1 Mbps fixed broadband.
Vermont’s Telecommunications Plan
The Public Service Department, in coordination with the Department of Innovation and Information, the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and the Agency of Transportation, produces a ten-year plan that serves as the basis for state telecommunications policy. The plan is updated every three years in accordance with 30 V.S.A. § 202d.