|BILL AS INTRODUCED||2007-2008|
Introduced by Representatives Kitzmiller of Montpelier, Bissonnette of Winooski, Botzow of Pownal, Clerkin of Hartford, Consejo of Sheldon, Davis of Washington, Kupersmith of S. Burlington, Livingston of Manchester, Marcotte of Coventry, Shand of Weathersfield and Sunderland of Rutland Town
Subject: Vermont telecommunications authority; broadband and wireless
Statement of purpose: This bill would establish a Vermont telecommunications authority to facilitate the establishment and delivery of wireless and broadband infrastructure and services for residents and businesses throughout Vermont.
AN ACT RELATING TO ESTABLISHING THE VERMONT TELECOMMUNICATIONS AUTHORITY TO ADVANCE BROADBAND AND WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE THROUGHOUT THE STATE
Sec. 1. 30 V.S.A. chapter 91 is added to read:
VERMONT TELECOMMUNICATIONS AUTHORITY
§ 8060. ESTABLISHMENT OF AUTHORITY; ORGANIZATION
(a) The Vermont telecommunications authority is hereby created and established as a body corporate and politic and a public instrumentality of the state. The exercise by the authority of the powers conferred upon it in this chapter constitutes the performance of essential governmental functions.
(b) The authority shall consist of a board of directors whose members shall be the commissioner of the department of information and innovation, the commissioner of the department of public service, the state treasurer, the executive director of the Vermont economic development authority, a municipal representative appointed by the Vermont league of cities and towns, and four at‑large members appointed by the governor. The governor shall appoint a chair from among its members. The authority’s powers are vested in the board of directors, and a quorum shall consist of five members. No action of the authority shall be considered valid unless the action is supported by a majority vote of the members present and voting and then only if at least four members vote in favor of the action. Members other than at-large members shall serve at the pleasure of their appointing authority. The at-large members shall serve for a term of four‑years, but two of the first four at‑large members appointed by the governor shall serve an initial term of two years. The governor may fill any vacancy occurring among the members appointed by a governor for the balance of the unexpired term. A member may be reappointed.
(c) The authority shall employ an executive director who shall serve as the authority’s chief administrative officer and shall direct and supervise the authority’s administrative affairs and technical activities in accordance with any rules, regulations, and policies set forth by the authority. In addition to any other duties, the executive director shall:
(1) Attend all meetings of the authority, act as its secretary, and keep minutes of its proceedings;
(2) Approve all accounts of the authority, including but not limited to accounts for salaries, per diems, and allowable expenses of any employee or consultant thereof and expenses incidental to the operation of the authority;
(3) Make an annual report to the authority documenting the actions of the authority and such other reports as the authority may request;
(4) Perform such other duties as may be directed by the authority in the carrying out of the purposes of this chapter.
(d) Except for those members otherwise regularly employed by the state, the compensation of the authority’s members shall be the same as that provided by 32 V.S.A. § 1010(a). All members of the authority, including those members otherwise regularly employed by the state, shall receive their actual and necessary expenses when away from home or office upon their official duties.
§ 8061. PURPOSE; POWERS AND DUTIES
(a) The authority’s purpose is to facilitate the establishment and delivery of wireless and broadband communications infrastructure and services for residents and businesses throughout Vermont with a focus on unserved and underserved areas and an overall long‑term goal of ubiquitous broadband and wireless infrastructure throughout the state.
(b) The authority shall have the following powers and duties, which shall be exercised to further the authority’s purpose, and shall have all other powers necessary to carry out the duties imposed on the authority by law:
(1) to establish partnerships and contracts with providers of telecommunications services and related facilities to serve unserved or underserved areas of the state; and to provide financial and other assistance to providers who agree in return to provide broadband and wireless services in unserved and underserved areas of the state;
(2) to provide financial assistance in the form of loans, grants, guarantees, other financial instruments, or, in accordance with section 8063 of this title, bonds backed by project revenues, the state, and/or its political subdivisions for the purpose of building infrastructure capable of delivering broadband and wireless services to all Vermonters;
(3) to consult, contract, or partner with the Vermont economic development authority and the Vermont municipal bond bank to provide financial assistance for purposes authorized by this chapter; and to coordinate access to and pursue all state, federal and private funding that is available for telecommunications infrastructure and to contract with financial assistance providers;
(4) to receive and accept grants, gifts, loans, or contributions from any source;
(5) to incorporate one or more nonprofit corporations in Vermont to fulfill the goals of this chapter. Such corporation shall be empowered to borrow money and to receive and accept gifts, grants, or contributions from any source, provided that such gifts, grants, or contributions are not less than $5,000.00 from any one source for the period of one year. The voting members of the authority shall be directors of the corporation. The corporation shall be organized and operate under the nonprofit corporation laws of the state of Vermont. The authority may contract with the corporation to provide staff and management needs of the corporation;
(6) to aggregate and broker access at reduced prices to services and facilities required to provide broadband and wireless communications services; and to waive or reduce state fees for access to state‑owned rights‑of‑way in exchange for comparable value to the state, unless payment for use is otherwise required by federal law;
(7) to own, acquire, sell, trade, and lease equipment, facilities, and other infrastructure that could be accessed and used by multiple service providers, the state, and local governments, including fiber optic cables, towers, shelters, easements, rights‑of‑way, and wireless spectrum or frequencies;
(8) in collaboration with the Vermont municipal bond bank, to act as agent and advisor for municipalities that wish to offer municipally backed financial assistance, consistent with chapter 53 of Title 24, to develop telecommunications infrastructure or services in their communities;
(9) to apply for and obtain required permits for the construction of telecommunications infrastructure;
(10) in collaboration with the agency of administration, to lead the management of marketing of state properties to encourage and expedite collocation of infrastructure;
(11) to consult with agencies and departments on establishing charges or payments for use by broadband and wireless communications providers of state property, easements, and rights‑of‑way to the extent such charges or payments are required by law, and establish the criteria for waiver of such charges or payments when providers offer to furnish comparable value to the state to meet the public good;
(12) to sue and be sued in its own name and plead and be impleaded;
(13) to administer its own funds and to invest or deposit funds which are not needed currently to meet the obligations of the authority; and
(14) to borrow money and give other evidence of indebtedness or obligations and security consistent with the authority’s purpose and needs.
(c) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to grant power to the authority to offer the sale of telecommunications services to the public.
§ 8062. INTERAGENCY COOPERATION
(a) Other departments and agencies of state government shall cooperate with the authority and shall make available to it information and data as needed to assist the authority in carrying out its duties. Nothing in this section shall be construed to waive any privilege or protection otherwise afforded to the data and information under exemptions to the public records act or under other laws due solely to the fact that the information or data is shared with the authority pursuant to this section.
(b) With the consent of the governor, a state agency shall transfer ownership and control to the Vermont telecommunications authority of the agency’s interest in any telecommunications facility designated by the authority as appropriate to assist the authority in meeting its statutory purposes. “Telecommunications facility” includes antennae, towers and other support structures, wires and cables, and other equipment.
§ 8063. BONDS AND NOTES
(a)(1) The authority may issue its negotiable notes and bonds in such principal amount as the authority determines to be necessary to provide sufficient funds for achieving any of its corporate purposes, including the payment of interest on notes and bonds of the authority, establishment of reserves to secure the notes and bonds including the reserve funds created under section 8064 of this title, and all other expenditures of the authority incident to and necessary or convenient to carry out its corporate purposes and powers. However, the bonds or notes of the authority outstanding at any one time shall not exceed $40,000,000.00 No bonds shall be issued under this section without the prior approval of the governor and the state treasurer or their respective designees.
(2) The authority shall have the power, from time to time, to issue notes, to renew notes and bonds to pay notes, including the interest thereon, and, whenever it deems refunding expedient, to refund any bonds by the issuance of new bonds, whether the bonds to be refunded have or have not matured, and to issue bonds partly to refund bonds then outstanding and partly for any of its corporate purposes.
(3) Except as may otherwise be expressly provided by resolution of the authority, every issue of its notes and bonds shall be general obligations of the authority payable out of any revenues or moneys of the authority, subject only to any agreements with the holders of particular notes or bonds pledging any particular revenues.
(b) The notes and bonds shall be authorized by resolution or resolutions of the authority, shall bear such date or dates and shall mature at such time or times as the resolution or resolutions may provide, except that no bond shall mature more than thirty years from the date of its issue. The bonds may be issued as serial bonds or as term bonds or as a combination thereof. The notes and bonds shall bear interest at such rate or rates, be in such denominations, be in such form, either coupon or registered, carry such registration privileges, be executed in such manner, be payable in such medium of payment, at such place or places within or without the state, and be subject to such terms of redemption as the resolution or resolutions may provide, provided, however, that at the time of the authorization of the issuance of such bonds or notes the authority determines in such resolution that the authority will derive receipts, revenues, or other income from the facilities or projects to be financed with the proceeds of such bonds or notes sufficient to provide, together with all other available receipts, revenues, and income of the authority, for the payment of such bonds or notes and the payment of all costs and expenses incurred by the authority with respect to the program or purpose for which such bonds or notes are issued and all other expenses of the authority incurred under this title. The notes and bonds of the authority may be sold by the authority at public or private sale, at such price or prices as the authority shall determine.
(c) Any resolution or resolutions authorizing any notes or bonds or any issue thereof may contain provisions, which shall be a part of the contract or contracts with the holders thereof, as to:
(1) pledging all or any part of the revenues of the authority to secure the payment of the notes or bonds or of any issue thereof, subject to such agreements with note holders or bondholders as may then exist;
(2) pledging all or any part of the assets of the authority to secure the payment of the notes or bonds or of any issue of notes or bonds, subject to such agreements with note holders or bondholders as may then exist;
(3) the use and disposition of the revenues of the authority and payments upon other obligations held by the authority;
(4) the setting aside of reserves or sinking funds and the regulation and disposition thereof;
(5) limitations on the purpose to which the proceeds of sale of notes or bonds may be applied and pledging the proceeds to secure the payment of the notes or bonds or of any issue thereof;
(6) limitations on the issuance of additional notes or bonds; the terms upon which additional notes or bonds may be issued and secured; and the refunding of outstanding or other notes or bonds;
(7) the procedure, if any, by which the terms of any contract with note holders or bondholders may be amended or abrogated, the amount of notes or bonds the holders of which must consent thereto, and the manner in which consent may be given;
(8) limitations on the amount of moneys to be expended by the authority for operating expenses of the authority;
(9) vesting in a trustee or trustees, within or without the state, such property, rights, powers, and duties in trust as the authority may determine, which may include any or all of the rights, powers, and duties of the trustee appointed by the bondholders pursuant to this chapter and limiting or abrogating the right of the bondholders to appoint a trustee under this chapter or limiting the rights, powers, and duties of the trustee;
(10) defining the acts or omissions to act that shall constitute a default in the obligations and duties of the authority to the holders of the notes or bonds and providing for the rights and remedies of the holders of the notes or bonds in the event of such default, including as a matter of right the appointment of a receiver; provided, however, that the rights and remedies shall not be inconsistent with the general laws of the state and other provisions of this chapter; and
(11) any other matters, of like or different character, which in any way affect the security or protection of the holders of the notes or bonds.
(d) Any pledge made by the authority shall be valid and binding from the time when the pledge is made; the revenues, moneys, or property so pledged and thereafter received by the authority shall immediately be subject to the lien of such pledge without any physical delivery thereof or further act; and such pledge shall be valid and binding as against all parties having claims of any kind in tort, contract, or otherwise against the authority, irrespective of whether such parties have notice thereof.
(e) Bonds, notes, and other obligations authorized under this chapter may, in the discretion of the authority, be issued with such terms as will cause the interest thereon to be subject to federal income taxation. To the extent required for the sale of the obligations, the authority may register such obligations under applicable federal and state securities laws. No person executing any bonds, notes, and other obligations issued by the authority or others under authority of this chapter shall be subject to any personal liability or accountability by reason of the issuance thereof. The authority shall indemnify any person who shall have served as a member, officer, or employee of the authority against financial loss or litigation expense arising out of or in connection with any claim or suit involving allegations that pecuniary harm has been sustained as a result of any transaction authorized by this chapter, unless such person is found by a final judicial determination not to have acted in good faith and for a purpose that the person reasonably believed to be lawful and in the best interest of the authority.
(f) The authority, subject to such agreements with note holders or bondholders as may then exist, shall have power out of any funds available therefore to purchase notes or bonds of the authority, which shall thereupon be cancelled, at a price not exceeding:
(1) if the notes or bonds are then redeemable, the redemption price then applicable plus accrued interest to the next interest payment thereon; or
(2) if the notes or bonds are not then redeemable, the redemption price applicable on the first date after such purchase upon which the notes or bonds become subject to redemption plus accrued interest to such date.
(g) In the discretion of the authority, the notes or bonds may be secured by a trust indenture by and between the authority and a corporate trustee, which may be any trust company or bank having the power of a trust company within or without the state. The trust indenture may contain such provisions for protecting and enforcing the rights and remedies of the note holders or bondholders as may be reasonable and proper and not in violation of law, including covenants setting forth the duties of the authority in relation to the exercise of its corporate powers and the custody, safeguarding, and application of all moneys. The authority may provide by such trust indenture for the payment of the proceeds of the notes or bonds and the revenues to the trustee under such trust indenture or other depository and for the method of disbursement thereof, with such safeguards and restrictions as it may determine. All expenses incurred in carrying out the trust indenture may be treated as a part of the operating expenses of the authority. If the notes or bonds shall be secured by a trust indenture, the note holders and bondholders shall have no authority to appoint a separate trustee to represent them.
(h) Any law to the contrary notwithstanding, a bond or note issued under this chapter is fully negotiable for all purposes of sections 1–101 et seq. of Title 9A, and each holder or owner of a bond or note or of any coupon appurtenant thereto, by accepting the bond or note or coupon, shall be conclusively deemed to have agreed that the bond, note, or coupon is fully negotiable for those purposes.
(i) Any provision of this chapter or of any other law or any recitals in any bonds or notes issued under this chapter to the contrary notwithstanding, all bonds, notes, and interest coupons appertaining thereto issued by the authority shall have and are hereby declared to have all the qualities and incidents, including negotiability, of investment securities under sections 1–101 et seq. of Title 9A, but no provision of those sections respecting the filing of a financing statement to perfect a security interest shall be applicable to any security interest created in connection with the issuance of the bonds, notes, or coupons.
(j) In case any of the members, executive director, or officers of the authority whose signatures appear on any notes or bonds or coupons shall cease to be members, executive director, or officers before the delivery of such notes or bonds, the signatures shall, nevertheless, be valid and sufficient for all purposes, the same as if such members, executive director, or officers had remained in office until such delivery.
(k) The authority may enter into one or more agreements for the exchange of interest rates, cash flows, or payments to reduce net borrowing costs, to achieve desirable net effective interest rates in connection with its issuance and sale of debt obligations, and to provide for an efficient means of debt management.
§ 8064. RESERVE FUNDS
(a) The authority may create and establish one or more special funds, herein referred to as “debt service reserve funds,” and shall pay into each such debt service reserve fund:
(1) any moneys appropriated and made available by the state for the purpose of such fund;
(2) any proceeds of the sale of notes or bonds, to the extent provided in the resolution or resolutions of the authority authorizing the issuance thereof; and
(3) any other moneys which may be made available to the authority for the purpose of such fund from any other source or sources.
(b) All moneys held in any debt service reserve fund, except as hereinafter provided, shall be used, as required, solely for the payment of the principal of bonds secured in whole or in part by such fund or of the sinking fund payments hereinafter mentioned with respect to such bonds, the purchase or redemption of such bonds, the payment of interest on such bonds or the payment of any redemption premium required to be paid when such bonds are redeemed prior to maturity; provided, however, that moneys in any such fund shall not be withdrawn therefrom at any time in such amount as would reduce the amount of such fund to less than the debt service reserve requirement established by resolution of the authority for such fund as hereafter provided except for the purpose of making with respect to bonds secured in whole or in part by such fund payments, when due, of principal, interest, redemption premiums, and the sinking fund payments hereinafter mentioned for the payment of which other moneys of the authority are not available. Any income or interest earned by, or increment to, any debt service reserve fund due to the investment thereof may be transferred by the authority to other funds or accounts of the authority to the extent it does not reduce the amount of such debt service reserve fund below the debt service reserve requirement for such fund.
(c) The authority shall not at any time issue bonds or notes secured in whole or in part by a debt service reserve fund if upon the issuance of such bonds or notes the amount in such debt service reserve fund will be less than the debt service reserve requirement established by resolution of the authority for such fund, unless the authority at the time of issuance of such bonds shall deposit in such fund from the proceeds of the bonds or notes so to be issued, or from other sources, an amount that, together with the amount then in such fund, will not be less than the debt service reserve requirement established for such fund. The debt service reserve requirement for any debt service reserve fund shall be established by resolution of the authority prior to the issuance of any bonds or notes secured in whole or in part by such fund and shall not be required to exceed “maximum debt service.” For the purposes of this section, the term “maximum debt service” shall mean, as of any particular date of computation, an amount of money equal to the greatest of the respective amounts, for the then current or any future fiscal year of the authority, of annual debt service on the bonds of the authority secured or to be secured in whole or in part by such debt service reserve fund, such annual debt service for any fiscal year being the amount of money equal to the aggregate of:
(1) all interest payable during such fiscal year on all bonds secured in whole or in part by such debt service reserve fund outstanding on the date of computation; plus
(2) the principal amount of all such bonds outstanding on such date of computation that mature during such fiscal year; plus
(3) all amounts specified in any resolution of the authority authorizing such bonds as payable during such fiscal year as a sinking fund payment with respect to any of such bonds that mature after such fiscal year.
(d) In computing the amount of the debt service reserve funds for the purpose of this section, securities in which all or a portion of such funds shall be invested shall be valued at par if purchased at par or at amortized value, as such term is defined by resolution of the authority, if purchased at other than par.
(e) In order to assure the maintenance of the debt service reserve requirement in each debt service reserve fund established by the authority, there may be appropriated annually and paid to the authority for deposit in each such fund such sum as shall be certified by the chair of the authority to the governor, the president of the senate, and the speaker of the house as is necessary to restore each such debt service reserve fund to an amount equal to the debt service reserve requirement for such fund. The chair shall annually, on or about February 1, make and deliver to the governor, the president of the senate, and the speaker of the house his or her certificate stating the sum required to restore each such debt service reserve fund to the amount aforesaid, and the sum so certified may be appropriated, and if appropriated, shall be paid to the authority during the then current state fiscal year. The principal amount of bonds or notes outstanding at any one time and secured in whole or in part by a debt service reserve fund to which state funds may be appropriated pursuant to this subsection shall not exceed $40,000,000.00, provided that the foregoing shall not impair the obligation of any contract or contracts entered into by the authority in contravention of the Constitution of the United States of America.
(f) The authority shall create and establish such other fund or funds as may be necessary or desirable for its corporate purposes.
§ 8065. REFUNDING OBLIGATIONS – ISSUANCE AND SALE
(a) The authority may provide for the issuance of refunding obligations for the purpose of refunding any obligations then outstanding that have been issued under the provisions of this chapter, including the payment of any redemption premium thereon and any interest accrued or to accrue to the date of redemption of such obligations and for any corporate purpose of the authority. The issuance of such obligations, the maturities and other details thereof, the rights of the holders thereof, and the rights, duties, and obligations of the authority in respect of the same shall be governed by the provisions of this chapter that relate to the issuance of obligations, insofar as those provisions may be appropriate.
(b) Refunding obligations issued as provided in this section may be sold or exchanged for outstanding obligations issued under this chapter and, if sold, the proceeds thereof may be applied, in addition to any other authorized purposes, to the purchase, redemption, or payment of such outstanding obligations. Pending the application of the proceeds of any refunding obligations, with any other available funds, to the payment of the principal, accrued interest and any redemption premium on the obligations being refunded, and, if so provided or permitted in the resolution authorizing the issuance of such refunding obligations or in the trust agreement securing them to the payment of any interest on such refunding obligations and any expenses in connection with such refunding, such proceeds may be invested in direct obligations of, or obligations the principal of and the interest on which are unconditionally guaranteed by, the United States of America, and which shall mature or which shall be subject to redemption by the holders thereof, at the option of such holders, not later than the respective dates when the proceeds, together with the interest accruing thereon will be required for the purposes intended.
§ 8066. REMEDIES OF BONDHOLDERS AND NOTE HOLDERS
(a) In the event that the authority defaults in the payment of principal or of interest on any bonds or notes issued under this chapter after they become due, whether at maturity or upon call for redemption, and the default continues for a period of 30 days, or in the event that the authority fails or refuses to comply with the provisions of this chapter or defaults in any agreement made with the holders of an issue of bonds or notes of the authority, the holders of 25 percent in aggregate principal amount of the bonds or notes of such issue then outstanding, by instrument or instruments filed in the office of the secretary of state and proved or acknowledged in the same manner as a deed to be recorded, may appoint a trustee to represent the holders of such bonds or notes for the purposes herein provided.
(b) Such trustee may, and upon written request of the holders of 25 percent in principal amount of such bonds or notes then outstanding shall, in his or her or its own name:
(1) enforce all rights of the bondholders or note holders, including the right to require the authority to carry out any agreements with the holders of such bonds or notes and to perform its duties under this chapter;
(2) enforce all rights of the bondholders or note holders, including the right to collect and enforce the payment of amounts due to the authority, so as to carry out any contract as to, or pledge of revenues, and to require the authority to carry out and perform the terms of any contract with the holders of such bonds or notes or its duties under this chapter;
(3) bring suit upon all or any part of such bonds or notes;
(4) by action or suit, require the authority to account as if it were the trustee of an express trust for the holders of such bonds or notes;
(5) by action or suit, enjoin any acts or things that may be unlawful or in violation of the rights of the holders of such bonds or notes;
(6) declare all such bonds or notes due and payable, and, if all defaults shall be made good, with the consent of the holders of 25 percent of the principal amount of such bonds or notes then outstanding to annul the declaration and its consequences.
(c) The trustee shall in addition to the foregoing have and possess all the powers necessary or appropriate for the exercise of any functions specifically set forth herein or incident to the general representation of bondholders or note holders in the enforcement and protection of their rights.
(d) Before declaring the principal of bonds or notes due and payable, the trustee shall first give 30 days’ notice in writing to the governor, to the authority, and to the attorney general of the state.
(e) The superior courts or courts with equity jurisdiction shall have jurisdiction of any suit, action, or proceeding by the trustee on behalf of bondholders or note holders.
§ 8067. PLEDGE OF THE STATE
The state does hereby pledge to and agree with the holders of the notes and bonds issued under this chapter that the state will not limit or restrict the rights hereby vested in the authority to perform its obligations and to fulfill the terms of any agreement made with the holders of its bonds or notes or in any way impair the rights and remedies of the holders until the notes and bonds, together with interest thereon, and interest on any unpaid installments of interest, are fully met, paid, and discharged. The authority is authorized to execute this pledge and agreement of the state in any agreement with the holders of the notes or bonds.
§ 8068. SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY; CREDIT OF STATE NOT PLEDGED
The authority shall have the benefit of sovereign immunity to the same extent as the state of Vermont. Members, officers, employees, and the executive director of the authority shall be deemed employees of the state for purposes of 12 V.S.A. chapter 189 (tort claims against state) and 3 V.S.A. chapter 29 (claims against state employees). Notwithstanding the foregoing, obligations issued under the provisions of this chapter shall not be deemed to constitute a debt or liability or obligation of the state or of any political subdivision thereof or a pledge of the faith and credit of the state or of any political subdivision but shall be payable solely from the revenues or assets of the authority. Each obligation issued under this chapter shall contain on the face thereof a statement to the effect that the authority shall not be obligated to pay the same nor the interest thereon except from the revenues or assets pledged therefor and that neither the faith and credit nor the taxing power of the state or of any political subdivision thereof is pledged to the payment of the principal of or the interest on such obligations.
§ 8069. NOTES AND BONDS AS LEGAL INVESTMENTS
Notwithstanding any other law, the state and all public officers, governmental units, and agencies thereof, all banks, trust companies, savings banks and institutions, building and loan associations, savings and loan associations, investment companies, and other persons carrying on a banking business, all insurance companies, insurance associations and other persons carrying on an insurance business, all credit unions, and all executors, administrators, guardians, trustees, and other fiduciaries may legally invest any sinking funds, moneys, or other funds belonging to them or within their control in any bonds or notes issued under this chapter, and the bonds or notes are authorized security for any and all public deposits.
§ 8070. ANNUAL REPORTS; AUDIT
(a) On or before the last day of January in each year, the authority shall submit a report of its activities for the preceding fiscal year to the governor and to the general assembly. Each report shall set forth a complete operating and financial statement covering its operations during the year. The authority shall cause an audit of its books and accounts to be made at least once in each year by certified public accountants; the cost shall be considered an expense of the authority and a copy shall be filed with the state treasurer.
(b) The auditor of accounts of the state and his or her duly authorized representatives may at any time examine the accounts and books of the authority including its receipts, disbursements, contracts, sinking funds, investments, and any other matters relating to its financial statements.
§ 8071. AUTHORIZATION TO ACCEPT APPROPRIATED MONIES
The authority is authorized to accept and expend such monies as may be appropriated or approved from time to time by the general assembly for effectuating its corporate purposes including, without limitation, the payment of the initial expenses of administration and operation and the establishment of reserves or contingency funds to be available for the payment of the principal of and the interest on any bonds, notes, or other obligations of the authority.
§ 8072. TAX EXEMPTION
(a) All property of the authority is public property devoted to an essential public and governmental function and purpose and is exempt from all taxes, franchise fees, and special assessments of whatever nature of the state or any subdivision. All bonds or notes issued under this chapter are issued by a body corporate and public of this state and for an essential public and governmental purpose, and those bonds and notes and the interest thereon and the income therefrom and all activities of the authority and fees, charges, funds, revenues, incomes, and other moneys of the authority, whether or not pledged or available to pay or secure the payment of those bonds or notes, or interest thereon, are exempt from all taxation, franchise fees, or special assessments of whatever kind except for transfer, inheritance, and estate taxes.
(b) The authority is not required to make or file any reports, statements, or informational returns required of any other bodies corporate except as provided in this chapter.
§ 8073. LIBERAL CONSTRUCTION
Neither this chapter nor anything herein contained is or shall be construed as a restriction or limitation upon any powers that the authority might otherwise have under any laws of this state, and this chapter is cumulative to any such powers. This chapter does and shall be construed to provide a complete, additional, and alternative method for the doing of the things authorized thereby and shall be regarded as supplemental and additional to powers conferred by other laws.
§ 8074. INCONSISTENT PROVISIONS IN OTHER LAWS SUPERSEDED
Insofar as the provisions of this chapter are inconsistent with the provisions of any other law, general, special, or local, the provisions of this chapter shall be controlling.
Sec. 2. 10 V.S.A. § 212 (14) is amended to read:
(14) “Mortgagee,” as used in subchapter 2, means the original lender under a mortgage and its successors and assigns if approved by the authority, and shall include the authority in its capacity as lender under the Technology Infrastructure Financing Program adopted pursuant to subchapter 10 of this chapter. The authority may utilize up to $3,000,000.00 of its mortgage insurance capacity granted pursuant to 10 V.S.A. § 221(a) and § 221(c) to insure these Technology Infrastructure Financing Program loans;
Sec. 3. BROADBAND DEVELOPMENT GRANT PROGRAM
(a) The sum of $200,000.00 in capital funds is appropriated to the department of information and innovation which shall be transferred upon request of the Vermont telecommunications authority to the authority to fund broadband development grants as authorized by this section.
(b) The authority may award grants to municipalities, telecommunications infrastructure developers, and service providers.
(c) The authority shall select projects that will provide broadband service in areas of the state that do not currently have broadband service or projects that provide one or more Wi‑Fi hotspots in municipalities without a Wi‑Fi hotspot located in area open to and commonly frequented by members of the general public. The authority shall select projects that:
(1) Provide availability of broadband service to all residents and businesses throughout a logical and contiguous service area; or
(2) Provide for the establishment of new Wi‑Fi hotspots available to the general public.
(d) The authority shall use a competitive application process to award grants. When evaluating proposals to provide broadband service throughout an unserved area, the authority shall consider the proposed price to consumers for the service, the proposed data transfer rates, the cost to the consumers of any new construction, equipment installation service, or facility required for the connection, and the degree to which the grant is required to make the project financially sustainable. When evaluating proposals to establish new Wi‑Fi hotspots, the authority shall give preference to Wi‑Fi hotspot proposals which provide at least limited free usage to the public.
(e) The authority may award grants in one or more rounds, including separate rounds to fund Wi‑Fi hotspots and expansion of broadband service. The authority may combine the award of a grant provided under this section with any other financial assistance that the authority is authorized to provide under section 8061 of Title 30.
(f) Each applicant shall identify the equipment, facilities, or services to be purchased with the grant. The authority shall establish award contracts with each recipient specifying performance requirements. For failure to perform during the specified period or for failure to provide service for the minimum period, the authority may, after notice and opportunity to correct the failure, take ownership of any equipment or facilities for which grant funds were used to purchase.
Sec. 4. 20 V.S.A. § 2601 is amended to read:
§ 2601. GENERALLY
A fire district may vote to adopt the town manager system in compliance with chapter 37 of Title 24. It may vote a tax upon the polls and taxable estate or upon the taxable estate only for the protection of property in the district from damage by fire; for the acquisition, construction and maintenance of sewers and sewage treatment works; sidewalks; acquisition, construction, and maintenance of telecommunications infrastructure; public parks; water works, water companies and equipment and real estate used in connection therewith including reservoirs and dams; for lighting; and for other lawful purposes. The prudential committee and collector shall have the same power in assessing, levying and collecting the tax, as town officers have in assessing and collecting town taxes, including the collection of interest on overdue taxes. The prudential committee may expend such sums for acquiring, constructing and maintaining sewers and sewage treatment works; sidewalks; public parks; water works, water companies and all equipment and real estate used in connection therewith including reservoirs and dams; and for lighting purposes as the fire district may vote. The committee may use and occupy such portions of the highways within the district as may be necessary for constructing and maintaining sewers and sewage treatment works; sidewalks; telecommunications infrastructure; public parks; water works and mains and for lighting purposes.
Sec. 5. 30 V.S.A. § 2(a) is added to read:
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(12) Supervision and regulation of the organization and operation of electric cooperatives under chapter 81 of this title;
(13) Certification and decertification of broadband providers not otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the department or the public service board for the purpose of access to utility poles and transportation rights of way. The commissioner shall adopt rules in accordance with chapter 25 of Title 3 to implement this subsection. The rules shall be aimed at furthering the state’s interest in ubiquitous deployment of broadband and wireless facilities and services within the state.
Sec. 6. 30 V.S.A. § 209(c) is amended to read:
(c) Rules adopted under subsection (b) of this section shall be aimed at protection of the health and safety of utility customers so that uninterrupted utility service may be continued on reasonable terms for the utility and its customers. Such rules shall also ensure that a reasonable rate of interest, adjusted for variations in market interest rates, be set on security deposits held by utility companies. For the purposes of board rules on attachments to poles owned by companies subject to regulation under this title, broadband providers certified by the department of public service pursuant to the authority under subdivision 2(a)(13) of this title shall be considered “attaching entities” with equivalent rights to attach facilities as those provided to “attaching entities” in the rules.
Sec. 7. 30 V.S.A. § 2513 is amended to read:
§ 2513. LINES ALONG RAILROAD TRACKS; WIRELESS AND
(a) A company subject to the jurisdiction of the public service board may erect and maintain its telecommunications or electric transmission and distribution lines and facilities along the sides of railroad tracks within the limits of lands owned or held by a railroad on paying reasonable compensation to the railroad. If they cannot agree upon the amount of reasonable compensation, it shall be determined by the transportation board which shall ascertain the compensation.
(b) Wireless telecommunications and broadband facilities may be erected and maintained within the limits of lands owned or held by a railroad in the same manner as other utility facilities.
(c) For purposes of this section, “broadband service” and “broadband facilities” shall have the same definitions as those provided for the same terms in the rules adopted by the commissioner of the department of public service pursuant to subdivision 2(a)(13) of this title.
Sec. 8. 5 V.S.A. § 3431 is amended to read:
§ 3431. RAILROAD RIGHTS‑OF‑WAY
Notwithstanding the provisions of section 213 of Title 1, when railroad operations cease on railroad rights‑of‑way owned by the state or municipality the title or interest held by the state or municipality in such rights‑of‑way shall be retained by the state or municipality for future transportation purposes and such other purposes as are not inconsistent with future transportation purposes; except that such rights‑of‑way shall not be used by members of the general public without permission of the state or municipality. The state or municipality shall allow abutting farm operations to use the land over which the rights‑of‑way pass for agricultural purposes. Unless use and occupancy of railroad rights‑of‑way adversely affect railroad safety, broadband facilities and wireless and other telecommunications facilities that are installed along or within the railroad right‑of‑way in compliance with applicable operations and safety standards at the time of installation are consistent with existing and future transportation purposes.
Sec. 9. 30 V.S.A. § 2502 is amended to read:
§ 2502. LINES OR WIRES ALONG HIGHWAYS;
TELECOMMUNICATIONS FACILITIES; BROADBAND
FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION; RESTRICTION
Lines of telegraph, telephone, and electric wires, as well as two‑way wireless telecommunications facilities and broadband facilities, may, subject to the provisions of section 1111 of Title 19, be constructed and maintained by a person or corporation upon or under a highway, in such manner as not to interfere with repairs of such highway or the public convenience in traveling upon or using the same.
Sec. 10. 19 V.S.A. § 26a is amended to read:
§ 26a. DETERMINATION OF RENT TO BE CHARGED FOR LEASING OR LICENSING STATE‑OWNED PROPERTY UNDER THE AGENCY’S JURISDICTION
Except as otherwise provided by law, leases or licenses negotiated by the agency under sections 204 and 3405 of Title 5 and section 26 of this title ordinarily shall require the payment of fair market value rent, as determined by the prevailing area market prices for comparable space or property. However, the agency may lease or license state‑owned property under its jurisdiction for less than fair market value when the agency determines that the proposed occupancy or use serves a public purpose or that there exist other relevant factors, such as a prior course of dealing between the parties, that justify setting rent at less than fair market value. This section does not apply to leases or licenses for use by wireless and broadband communications providers of state‑owned railroad rights‑of‑way.
Sec. 11. STATE‑OWNED EASEMENTS AND RIGHTS‑OF‑WAY
(a) The agency of transportation shall adopt policies to standardize and expedite the processing of applications by broadband and wireless communications providers for access to and use of rights‑of‑way under the ownership, management, or jurisdiction of the agency.
(b) Unless otherwise required by federal law, any charge or payment for access to or use of state‑owned rights‑of‑way by providers of broadband or wireless communications facilities or services shall be reasonable and shall be waived if the provider offers to provide comparable value to the state so as to meet the public good. For the purposes of this section, the term “comparable value to the state” shall be construed broadly to further the state’s interest in ubiquitous broadband and wireless service availability at reasonable cost.
(c) The charges or payments required for access to or use of state‑owned rights‑of‑way under the jurisdiction or control of the agency of transportation by wireless or broadband communications providers shall be adopted by the Vermont telecommunications authority in consultation with the agency of transportation and in accordance with the rulemaking provisions of chapter 25 of Title 3. Rules required by this section shall be adopted using emergency procedures no later than 60 days and permanent rules shall be adopted no later than six months after the effective date of this act. The emergency rules adopted pursuant to this subdivision may remain in effect longer than 120 days, but in no event shall they remain in effect for more than six months. The agency of transportation shall post on its internet web site all permit applications and schedules for charges and payments adopted pursuant to this section by the agency and the telecommunications authority.
(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to impair any contractual rights existing on the effective date of this section.
Sec. 12. 10 V.S.A. § 6001c is amended to read:
§ 6001c. JURISDICTION OVER BROADCAST AND
SUPPORT STRUCTURES and related improvements
In addition to other applicable law, any support structure proposed for construction, which is primarily for communication or broadcast purposes and which will extend vertically 20 feet, or more, above the highest point of an attached existing structure or 50 feet, or more, above ground level in the case of a proposed new support structure, in order to transmit or receive communication signals for commercial, industrial, municipal, county, or state purposes, shall be a development under this chapter, independent of the acreage involved. If jurisdiction is triggered for such a support structure, then jurisdiction will also extend to the construction of improvements ancillary to the support structure, including buildings, broadcast or communication equipment, foundation pads, cables, wires, antennas or hardware, and all means of ingress and egress to the support structure. To the extent that future improvements are not ancillary to the support structure and do not involve an additional support structure, those improvements shall not be considered a development, unless they would be considered a development under this chapter in the absence of this section. The criteria and procedures for obtaining a permit under this section shall be the same as for any other development.
Sec. 13. 10 V.S.A. § 6001(26) is amended to read:
(26) “Telecommunications facility” means a support structure which is primarily for communication or broadcast purposes and which will extend vertically 20 feet, or more, above the highest point of an attached existing structure or 50 feet or more above ground level in the case of a proposed new support structure, in order to transmit or receive communication signals for commercial, industrial, municipal, county or state purposes.
Sec. 14. 24 V.S.A. § 2291(19) is amended to read:
(19) To regulate the construction, alteration, development, and decommissioning or dismantling of wireless telecommunications facilities and ancillary improvements where the city, town, or village has not adopted zoning or where those activities are not regulated pursuant to a duly adopted zoning bylaw. When the construction or alteration of wireless telecommunications facilities are subject to regulation by the authority granted in this section, the regulatory authority shall determine whether the installation of a wireless telecommunications facility, whatever its size, will impose no impact or merely a de minimis impact on the surrounding area and the overall pattern of land development. If the regulatory authority determines that the facility will impose no impact or a de minimis impact, then it shall issue a permit. Regulations regarding the decommissioning or dismantling of telecommunications facilities and ancillary structures may include requirements that bond be posted, or other security acceptable to the legislative body, in order to finance facility decommissioning or dismantling activities. These regulations are not intended to prohibit seamless coverage of wireless telecommunications services. No ordinance authorized by this section may have the purpose or effect of limiting or prohibiting a homeowner’s ability to place or allow placement of an antenna used to transmit or receive communications signals on the homeowner’s property if the antenna is not more than eight square feet on its largest face and if the antenna and the mast to which it is attached do not extend greater than 12 feet above the roofline.
Sec. 15. 24 V.S.A. § 4446 is amended to read:
§ 4446. BYLAWS; EFFECT OF ADOPTION
Within the jurisdiction of any municipality that has adopted any of the bylaws authorized by this chapter, no land development may be undertaken or effected except in conformance with those bylaws. Bylaws authorized by this chapter may specify for exclusion from review any land development determined to impose no impact or merely a de minimis impact on the surrounding area and the overall pattern of land development. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the administrative officer shall determine whether, subject to appeal to the appropriate municipal body, the installation of a facility used for telecommunications, whatever its size, will impose no impact or merely a de minimis impact on the surrounding area and the overall pattern of land development and whether such installation may be processed as a minor application under the same procedures provided for any permitted use in the zoning district. Notice of the issuance of such permit shall be provided to all adjoining landowners that may reasonably be affected by the facility, to the appropriate municipal panels, and to the select board. A homeowner may place or allow placement of an antenna used to transmit or receive communications signals on the homeowner’s property without the need for a local zoning permit if the antenna is not more than eight square feet on its largest face and if the antenna and the mast to which it is attached do not extend greater than 12 feet above the roofline.
Sec. 16. 30 V.S.A. § 248(n) is added to read:
(n) No company as defined in section 201 of this title and no person as defined in 10 V.S.A. § 6001(14) may place or allow the placement of wireless communications facilities on an existing electric transmission or generation facility located in this state, including a net‑metered system, without receiving a certificate of public good from the public service board pursuant to this subsection. The public service board may issue a certificate of public good for the placement of wireless communications facilities on existing electric transmission and generation facilities if the board finds, after an opportunity for hearing, that such placement satisfies the criteria enumerated in subdivisions (b)(1), (3), (4), (5), and (8) of this section. If the board finds that the petition filed pursuant to this subsection does not raise a significant issue with respect to the criteria enumerated in subdivisions (b)(1), (3), (4), (5), and (8) of this section, the board shall issue the certificate of public good without a hearing. If the board fails to act on a completed petition made under this subsection within 60 days of its filing with the clerk of the board and service to the director for public advocacy for the department of public service, the petition is deemed approved by operation of law. The public service board shall adopt procedural rules to implement this subsection within six months of the effective date of passage. The rules adopted pursuant to this subsection shall seek to simplify the application and review process as appropriate and shall be designed for prompt resolution of the application to further the state’s interest in ubiquitous wireless communications services in the state. For purposes of this subsection, “wireless communications facilities” include antennae, related equipment, and equipment shelter.
Sec. 17. 30 V.S.A. § 248a is added to read:
§ 248a. CERTIFICATE OF PUBLIC GOOD FOR MULTIPLE TELECOMMUNICATIONS FACILITIES
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a permit in the form of a certificate of public good may be issued by the public service board under this section if the applicant seeks approval for the construction or installation of three or more telecommunications facilities as part of an interconnected network and if the board finds that the facilities will promote the general good of the state consistent with subsection 202c(b) of this title.
(b) For the purpose of this section, “telecommunications facility” means any support structure proposed for construction or installation which is primarily for communication or broadcast purposes in order to transmit or receive communication signals for commercial, industrial, municipal, county, or state purposes.
(c) Before the public service board issues a certificate of public good under subsection (a) of this section, it shall find that the proposed facilities, when considered in the aggregate, will:
(1) not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region with due consideration having been given to the recommendations of the municipal and regional planning commissions, the recommendations of the municipal legislative bodies, and the land conservation measures contained in the plan of any affected municipality;
(2) not have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics, historic sites, air and water purity, the natural environment, and the public health and safety, with due consideration having been given to the criteria specified in subsecton 1424a(d) and subdivisions 6086(a)(1) through (8) and (9)(K) of Title 10.
(d) When issuing a certificate of public good under this section, the board shall give due consideration to the conditions in an existing state or local permit and shall harmonize the conditions in the certificate of public good with the existing permit conditions to the extent feasible.
(e) The applicant shall serve written notice of an application filed with the board pursuant to this section to the municipal and regional planning commissions in the communities in which the applicant proposes to construct or install facilities; the secretary of the agency of natural resources; the commissioner of the department of public service and its director for public advocacy; and the landowners of record of property adjoining the project sites. Upon motion or otherwise, the public service board shall direct that further public or personal notice be provided if the board finds that such further notice will not unduly delay consideration of the merits and that additional notice is necessary for fair consideration of the application.
(f) The public service board shall issue a final determination on an application filed pursuant to this section within 90 days of its filing or, if the original filing did not substantially comply with the public service board’s rules, within 90 days of the date on which the clerk of the board notifies the applicant that the filing is complete.
(g) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any person from executing a letter of intent or entering into a contract before the issuance of a certificate of public good under this section, provided that the obligations under that letter of intent or contract are made subject to compliance with the requirements of this section.
(h) An applicant using the procedures provided in this section shall not be required to obtain a local zoning permit or a permit under the provisions of chapter 151 of Title 10 for the facilities subject to the application or to a certificate of public good issued pursuant to this section. Ordinances adopted pursuant to subdivision 2291(19) of Title 24 that would otherwise apply to the construction or installation of facilities subject to section are preempted. Disputes over jurisdiction under this section shall be resolved by the public service board, subject to appeal as provided by section 12 of this title.
Sec. 18. ROLE OF VERMONT’S ELECTRIC UTILITIES
TELECOMMUNICATIONS DEPLOYMENT THROUGHOUT
The public service board shall convene a proceeding within 60 days of the effective date of this act to examine regulatory policy regarding the use or role of Vermont’s electric utilities to facilitate deployment of telecommunications infrastructure and services, whether wireless, broadband, or otherwise, throughout the state. The board shall provide notice of the proceeding to the state’s electric utilities and certificated telecommunications carriers. The department of public service shall provide a report to the general assembly by January 15, 2008 with the department’s recommendations for any necessary legislative action.
Sec. 19. EFFECTIVE DATE
This act shall take effect from passage.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street