Vermont House passes broadband bill

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) The Vermont House has approved a bill to expand broadband coverage to more Vermonters.

Lawmakers voted 139-2 on Tuesday in favor of the measure. They say more than a quarter of Vermonters still have no access to what the federal government considers broadband internet access-- at least 25 megabytes of download speed.

The state will be able to loan funds to startups to help them become successful and available in all communities.

The bill creates a low-interest revolving loan fund to be administered by the Vermont Economic Development Authority. Loans would help finance small startups to expand coverage. Funding for each project is capped at $1.8 million and requires a 10 percent local match. The funding will come from increasing the universal service charge on telecom bills by half a percent to 2.5 percent. That will raise an additional $1.5 million.

The bill also makes it easier for electric companies to help string fiber on existing poles.

The bill is up for final approval Wednesday before heading to the Senate.