Twenty-two towns in the Northeast Kingdom so far have signaled support for asking voters to join a communications union district, a possible solution to the region’s longtime struggle for high-speed internet.
“The idea that there is a group of local people trying to solve the problem themselves, I think it has some reassurance instead of Montpelier trying to solve the problem for them,” said organizer Evan Carlson, who works with Lyndonville’s Do North Coworking center.
He and Katherine Sims, director of the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative, have been at the helm of the effort to bring a district to the area’s 55 municipalities. And they say the reception’s been enthusiastic so far.
“The common feeling is that selectboard members know that this is an issue that matters to their residents,” Sims said. “They might not have the capacity or expertise to move forward on their own, [so a communications union district is appealing].”
The Kingdom’s counties have some of the lowest availability of baseline
broadband, or high-speed, internet in the state. Essex has the lowest
rate at 21.7%, according to data from 2018. Orleans has the third-lowest
at 50.6%, and Caledonia has the fourth-lowest at 51.2%. Those access
problems translate into barriers for businesses and for retaining