ACT NO. 79
Vermont telecommunications authority; broadband; wireless
This act establishes legislative goals for the availability of broadband and mobile telecommunications services throughout the state. It provides that all residences and businesses in all regions of the state have access to affordable broadband services not later than the end of the year 2010; and that mobile telecommunications services, including voice and high-speed data, be available throughout the state by the end of the year 2010.
To accomplish these goals, the act establishes a Vermont Telecommunications Authority of 11 members, including state officials, public members appointed by the leaders of the General Assembly, and a chair and vice chair appointed by the legislative leaders and the governor.
The Authority is directed to:
* Develop an inventory of where cellular (mobile telecommunications) and broadband services are not available and an inventory of an infrastructure necessary to serve these areas, identifying the types and locations of infrastructure necessary.
* Coordinate state agencies to make public resources available to support the extension of these services;
* Coordinate and establish public/private partnerships to extend the availability of service, and supporting local initiatives for that purpose;
* Solicit and consider input from municipalities and regional planning commissions on specific projects the authority plans to undertake; and
* Provide financial resources to public or private entities, through loans or grants, for these purposes.
The Authority is granted powers to:
* Establish partnerships or contracts with providers of telecom services and related facilities to bring service to people in unserved areas;
* Provide financial assistance to service providers and projects, either as loans, grants, or indirect financial assistance;
* Construct, own, and provide communications facilities and infrastructure such as fiber optic cables, towers, and wireless radio spectrum for use by multiple service providers;
* Issue revenue bonds to raise capital for these purposes;
* Collaborate with VEDA and the Municipal Bond Bank to finance projects or to seek financial resources;
* Solicit and accept grants, gifts, loans or contributions from any source;
* Form nonprofit, subsidiary corporations to undertake projects;
* Lead the management of state-owned properties to coordinate and expedite use by telecommunications service providers.
The Act also enables broadband service providers to place facilities on utility poles and in state highway and rail rights-of-way.
The Act would also revise state and local land use permitting processes applicable to structures and antennae necessary to provide both cellular phone service and
wireless-based broadband service, with the objective of reducing the time and expense necessary for communications service providers to construct those facilities.
The Act would also facilitate provision of broadband services by municipalities or by nonmunicipal entities in partnership with municipalities.
Other significant provisions of the act:
* Express the intention of the General Assembly to appropriate the amount of $500,000.00 in each of fiscal years 2009 and 2010 for construction and advancement of the North-Link project of Northern Enterprises, Inc.. (Section 1a )
* Continue the Broadband Development Grant Program to distribute $200,000.00 appropriated in the capital bill (Section 3).
* Authorize and direct DII to develop and coordinate a pilot project, which will evaluate the use of satellite- and terrestrial-based technologies to provide next generation wireless and broadband services to rural communities in northeastern Vermont, northwestern New Hampshire, and the southern portions of the Province of Quebec. Future applications may include a multi-jurisdictional,
interoperable public safety communications system. (Section 3a)
* Authorize the PSB to accept from cable television companies, in lieu of mandated cable television line extensions, commitments to provide services or facilities in support of entities that will extend broadband services to unserved areas of the state. (Section 5a)
* Direct the PSB to revise its cable television line extension policies in consideration of passage of this act, availability of video programming from sources other than cable companies, and fair treatment of competing providers of services. (Section 5b)
* Extend by six months the sunset of a law that suspends PSB requirements for small telephone companies to file tariffs with the PSB, and PSB authority to investigate proposed increases in rates. (Sections 17 and 17a)
* Require the PSB to examine regulatory policy regarding the use or role of Vermonts electric utilities to facilitate deployment of telecommunications infrastructure and services, whether wireless, broadband, or otherwise, throughout the state and take whatever action the board finds is consistent with the public good and within its existing authority. (Section 18)
* Authorize and direct the speaker, president pro tempore and the chars of the commerce and economic Development committees to communicate to the DPS and PSB the General Assembly's recommendations that any company seeking to acquire the assets and network of Verizon New England Inc. have the capabilities and intentions to furnish broadband services that are sufficient to meet the rapidly evolving needs of Vermont residents, businesses and institutions. (Section 18a)
Effective Date: From passage: June 9, 2007
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street