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March Ballot Question - Shall Pownal join the "CUD"?

At Town Meeting in March, the citizens of Pownal will be asked to join the Southern Vermont Communications Union District (CUD). The ballot question is simple and direct:

"Shall the Town of Pownal enter into a communications union district (CUD) to be known as the Southern Vermont Communications Union District, under the provisions of 30 V.S.A. chapter 82?"

Many homes in town do not have access to modem, high-speed internet service (broadband). By joining the CUD, Pownal will be joining with other towns in Bennington County to attack this problem as a region. Recent history has shown that neither the State nor the federal government are going to solve the rural Internet problem for us, and it is too big for one town; multiple towns working together is a proven solution.

The first CUD in Vermont was ECFiber, in and around Orange and Windsor counties, and it is a huge success. Serving 27 towns in east central Vermont, they are providing super high-speed Internet over fiber optic lines directly to homes. In partnership with ValleyNet, an Internet service provider (ISP), they have blazed the trail that the rest of us hope to follow for universal, rural internet broadband. Key things to know before you vote:

1. Joining a CUD can not raise taxes, ever. By state law, town tax money cannot be used to pay for communication infrastructure. The build-out will be paid for with grants, donations, and service fees. Most of the funding will come from the subscribers who buy the Internet service.

2. Our town's only responsibility is to appoint a representative and an alternate to the CUD governing board. The governing board will run the CUD, define its rules and policies, contract an ISP to provide internet service as well as hire companies to string the physical lines.

3. This is how the State wants us to solve this problem, and CUDs are forming all over the state. Act 79, "the broadband bill" passed last session by the legislature, encourages towns to join together in CUDs and provides money for feasibility grants to help them do it. CUDs are currently being formed in Windham County, the Northeast Kingdom, and other areas.

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