With Federal Broadband Grants Pending, Vermonters Urged to Check for FCC Errors

Officials worry inaccuracies in FCC data could cost the state construction money 

NBC Universal, Inc.

The state of Vermont is calling on the FCC to clean up its broadband data, which relies on information supplied by telecom providers. The state worries errors in the data could cost small communities millions of federal dollars they’ll need to extend high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved areas.

Wednesday, community members in Calais celebrated the start of construction to extend high-speed internet fiber to Calais and 20 communities in the central part of the state who have partnered to bring unserved and underserved addresses online.

“This is really transformational,” beamed Jerry Diamantides, who chairs the governing board of CVFiber, the communications union district that includes Calais.

However, there is concern around Vermont that federal government data may be holding the state back in its connectivity goals.

“We’re very frustrated with the FCC,” said Christine Hallquist, the executive director of the Vermont Community Broadband Board.

Hallquist said the Federal Communications Commission’s national broadband map is riddled with inaccuracies, such as serviceable addresses that are either missing or listed as having better access speeds than they truly do.

Hallquist is now asking Vermonters to check that FCC map, and if your home speed doesn’t match what your provider says you have, to make corrections by January 13.

“We know there’s tremendous error,” Hallquist told NECN & NBC10 Boston Wednesday. “For 274,000 addresses, 67,000 are in error. That’s pretty big.”

Vermont’s Congressional delegation is now encouraging the FCC to extend the deadline for responses to the map information.

The pandemic exposed how urgently needed strong web connections are in Vermont, for remote work, remote learning, and for a range of other applications.

Officials emphasize the FCC map issue really matters, because that data will help determine allocations of federal infrastructure money to help communities with their build-outs. 

“It could mean additional funding if we can point out those inaccuracies, so it’s important,” said Jennille Smith, the executive director of CVFiber. “If everyone can look on the FCC maps and determine whether their address data is accurate, that will help the state of Vermont with this joint challenge of the FCC data.”

The FCC did not respond to NECN & NBC10 Boston’s request for comment by our Wednesday evening deadline. 

Meanwhile, communications union districts are moving forward with their broadband construction goals, aiming to get the entire state in the communications fast lane.

“It’s a life changer, and it’s necessary,” future high-speed customer Barry Bernstein said of the expansion of service. “On one hand, I’d say it would be nice if none of us were hooked up to anything, because maybe we can start talking to each other again. But we can’t operate going forward without this kind of service, particularly in rural Vermont, if we’re going to stay equal to other folks.”

The Vermont Department of Public Service urged Vermonters to call its consumer affair hotline at (800) 622-4496 if they need assistance with this process.

Video instructions on how to file a challenge are available on YouTube. How to Submit an Availability Challenge - YouTube.

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