By Guy Page
Vermont gets by far the least value for its internet dollar among the northeastern states, according to a study by Surfshark.com.
Vermont ranks 45th in the nation in internet value – i.e. what customers get for what they pay – in stark contrast to #2 Rhode Island, #4 Massachusetts, and #8 Connecticut. Maine and New Hampshire are more “middle of the pack.”
But Vermont officials have invested – big – to improve Vermont’s poor internet service.
Vermont has been trying for decades to provide universal broadband internet service. The Governor and the Vermont General Assembly have appropriated $245M in broadband funding from the American Rescue Plan, the federal pandemic-era ‘recovery’ spending bill. Last year the Legislature established the Vermont Community Broadband Board to administer these funds.
November 8, several Chittenden County towns voted to become the state’s 10th Communication Union District (CUD). This vote means 213 of Vermont’s 252 towns are members of a CUD. This includes more than 93% of the locations in the state without broadband of at least 25/3 Mbps. More than 76% of Vermonters are now represented by community-grounded organizations with the goal of ensuring residents have broadband service capable of nearly unlimited speeds.
Longtime legislative broadband champion Rep. Laura Sibilia (Bennington-Windham county district House member) sits on the VCBB Board. Staff members include former gubernatorial candidate and Vermont Electric Co-operative CEO Christine Hallquist (Executive Director) and former Cambridge-Waterville legislator Lucy Rogers (Rural Broadband Technical Assistance Specialist).
Vermont’s first major CUD, ECFiber, was shaken this summer by the alleged embezzlement of $600,000 by an employee of Valleynet, the non-profit overseeing ECFiber. Company officials said the loss of the funds wouldn’t jeopardize plans or operations.
According to Surfshark, when it comes to a state’s internet quality and affordability, multiple factors come into play:
- Economic position: the wealthiest states get the best internet prices — 83% of high-income states enjoy a high Internet Value Index. Meanwhile, the poorest states have to sacrifice more of their hard-earned money for lower internet value.
- Population density: population density has a significant correlation (0.74) with the Internet Value Index. Highest-ranking New Jersey has the highest population density (1062 people/sq.mi.) – that’s 12 times more people per square mile than the U.S. average (87 people/sq.mi.).
- Percentage of urban area: population density tends to coincide with urban areas. States in the best-performing Northeast region have a three-times higher percentage of urban area (20% on average) than states in the worst-performing Southern region.
- Landlocked or not: The average index of non-landlocked states (0.65) is 25% higher than the average of landlocked states (0.52). The Northeast, the best-performing region, has the lowest percentage of landlocked states (22%).
These rules aren’t set in stone — some states can be anomalous and have good internet value. Take Utah, for example, which has lower income, low population density (39 people/sq.mi.), is doubly-landlocked, has just 1% of urban area, but still ranks 15th in the country by internet value.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.