Otter Creek CUD Nabs $9.9 Million Grant For Affordable Fiber Plan

Otter Creek CUD logo

The Otter Creek Communications Union District (CUD) has been awarded a $9.9 million grant by the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB). It’s the latest effort by the state to use CUDs to deliver affordable fiber broadband access to the long-neglected rural corners of Vermont.

According to the CUD’s announcement, the funding will help deploy affordable fiber access to roughly 4,100 homes and businesses by 2025. The fiber deployment will be done in partnership with Consolidated Communications, which says it has deployed fiber to 110,000 Vermont homes and businesses since 2021.

The deployment should ultimately bring broadband access to 85 percent of homes and businesses in the Otter Creek CUD area, which covers 17 towns and one city in and near Rutland, Vermont in the southwestern part of the state as 2,300 of the locations targeted by this latest round of funding currently have no access to any broadband service whatsoever.

Vermont CUD map

“We’re excited to work collaboratively with Consolidated to bring future-proof Internet to the 18 communities within our CUD,” Otter Creek CUD Chair Laura Black said in a statement. “This funding will put us well on our way to meeting the goal of universal service in the Rutland region, bringing all the opportunities that come with reliable, high-speed internet. The Otter Creek CUD board is proud to be on the way to bringing the broadband infrastructure this community needs to participate in the global economy.”

CUDs are defined as a new municipal entity created by two or more towns with a goal of collaboratively building communication infrastructure. Vermont lawmakers first created the legal framework for CUDs to operate in 2015. In the seven years since, more than a dozen CUDs have been established or are currently under development.

In Vermont, municipally-led CUDs can legally fund needed broadband expansions through debt, grants, and donations—but not taxes, though they themselves are tax-exempt nonprofits. They’re currently helping long neglected Vermont towns deploy affordable fiber networks that may have not been financially or logistically successful if attempted alone.

In 2021 the state passed Act 71 to help ensure that CUDs were a cornerstone of the state’s efforts to bridge the digital divide. Act 71 also established the VCBB, which is tasked with coordinating, facilitating, and accelerating the development and implementation of universal community broadband solutions.

Over the summer the VCBB says it doled out more than $58.9 million in grants to five different CUDs across the state, bringing broadband to at least 13,000 currently underserved homes and businesses. The state is also poised to receive $228.9 million in BEAD (Broadband Equity Access and Deployment) grants made possible by the 2021 infrastructure bill.