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Scott Proposes $51 million to Expand Cell Service to Rural Areas

Source: VermontBiz

Governor Scott is proposing to spend $51 million of federal money to expand cell service into Vermont’s rural areas. The effort would require siting about 100 new towers. The Legislature would have to allocate the money.

The governor said at his press briefing that so far lawmakers have not shown much interest in the proposal.

“I hope they’ll see the merits of doing so,” the governor said.

Public Service Department Commissioner June Tierney said, “A hundred cell towers will significantly improve the state of coverage in Vermont,” she said.

She added that the locations will be carefully chosen and would go through significant community scrutiny before being sited.

She added that the marketplace will not solve the problem of gaps in service because if there’s no business case to site new towers, the commercial carriers simply won’t, which is why the state needs to step in.

“The data in my department and my experience with the issue clearly shows folks want cell service to be ubiquitous and reliable,” Tierney said, and she urged the Legislature to “move off the mark” because “Vermonters really want this.”

Scott said the expansion of cell service would complement the $116 million already being deployed to built out the state’s broadband service through the Broadband Construction Grant Program.

The grant program provides money to the Communication Union Districts (CUDs). NEK Broadband, for one, powered up its first customers last week.

Broadband expansion does not solve, the governor said, the problem of poor cell service across the state, especially along rural roadways where the lack of sufficient wireless service is most acute.

Scott said that with a more mobile population and a more remote workforce –  on top of the Vermont tourism industry’s needs (everything from calling for reservations to getting directions) –  cell service is crucial to the economy.

He also emphasized the public safety benefits of adequate cell service, for both individuals and first responders.

Tierney outlined the administration’s plan at the governor’s press briefing on February 8.

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