Image of barn in Vermont

NEK Broadband has been awarded a grant valued at almost $16 million by The Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) as part of an effort to provide broadband to ten communities in the state.

NEK Broadband is a communications union district (CUD) that represents every town in Caledonia, Essex and Orleans counties, as well as Wolcott in Lamoille County. A CUD is a non-profit municipal entity that provides or aims to provide broadband in Vermont to two or more towns that are underserved or unserved. A CUD can fund operations through grants, debt and donations — but not taxes.

NEK, whose award is for $15,899,089, was the first service provider to get a Communications Union District (CUD) grant through the Act 71 Broadband Construction Program, according to a press release about the Vermont state broadband grant. The VCBB unanimously approved the application in April.

The funding will enable the construction of 215 miles of fiber that can provide service to 1,479 households. Initial deployments will be in Concord, Kirby and Waterford. Additional construction is expected to serve Brighton, Burke, East Haven, Lyndon, Newark, Sutton and Wheelock.

“The grant application process was rigorous and included thorough vetting from CTC, an independent consultant contracted by VCBB,” Evan Carlson, the Governing Board Chair of the CUD said in an email to the governing board. “It speaks volumes to the work of our team, and also establishes a path for other CUDs in the state. I’m personally inspired to see NEK leading the way.”

The selection of NEK was based on the service provider’s Universal Service Plan, which will provide each on-grid underserved 911 address in the Northeast Kingdom with high speed connectivity. The $16 million in funding is the first of an expected $104 million in grants that will pay for most of the project, which is expected to cost a total of $185 million.

NEK previously received $8.25 million for materials purchases and pre-construction of as many as 2,800 miles of fiber for residents and businesses in the Northeast Kingdom and Wolcott.

In September 2021, NEK made a deal with Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT) to operate a network for the CUD. WCVT also has a deal to build a network for another Vermont CUD, Maple Broadband.

Joan Engebretson contributed to this report.

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