Communications Union Districts Will Use GIS Technology to Address State's Digital Divide
REDLANDS, Calif. — (BUSINESS WIRE) — March 30, 2022 — Currently, under 30 percent of Vermont's households have access to fiber-optic broadband. Limited internet access and cell phone service is a major contributing factor to the digital divide, especially in rural areas. To help meet this challenge, Esri, the global leader in location intelligence, and Stone Environmental—a science, engineering, and field services firm that provides dynamic web-based geographic information system (GIS) solutions—have collaborated to provide Vermont's nine Communications Union Districts (CUDs), towns, and private telecommunications companies with the tools and information needed to enhance development of fiber-optic broadband in all areas of Vermont.
"As the second-most rural state in the country, access to the internet is a requirement for receiving essential services [ranging] from telehealth to education," said Nicholas Floersch, a senior web and GIS specialist at Stone Environmental. "This is a critical project that will benefit all Vermonters."
Vermont's broadband goal is to provide universal access throughout the state with upload and download speeds of 100 megabits per second. GIS technology is a critical component of this endeavor, and Esri has provided CUDs with licensed access to its ArcGIS Online software to collect data on existing connectivity. Montpelier-based Stone Environmental will incorporate this data into products for the public to use, including interactive tools, configurable online dashboards, and tools that provide important information for making decisions and tracking progress.
"This public-private partnership is an unprecedented step to establishing clear, real-time data to track community network deployment across an entire state," says Will Anderson, program manager of the Vermont Communications Union Districts Association (VCUDA). "The technology will provide an enormous benefit to CUDs as they enter the construction phase. This project ought to be a signal to the rest of the nation that there are solutions to the problem of inadequate broadband data, just as the CUDs demonstrate that there is a solution to the inadequacy of internet service in rural areas."
CUDs are municipalities—authorized by Vermont law—formed by two or more towns that agree to share resources to bring nonprofit fiber internet access to every on-grid premises within their territory. CUD territories encompass over 90 percent of the state's unserved or underserved areas.
"Managing and deploying a broadband network consists of a tremendous amount of location-based data, and this is where GIS excels," said Randall René, Esri industry solutions specialist. "It is uniquely suited to help organizations bid, plan, design, construct, and operate networks—all while meeting various reporting obligations associated with funding applications and awards."
Vermont's first CUD, ECFiber, provides almost 7,000 customers in Vermont's Upper Valley with some of the most affordable and reliable internet service in the state. Funding from the American Rescue Plan has ensured that eight other CUD construction plans for 2022 will proceed.
To learn more about how governments can use GIS to align with federal funds to advance infrastructure equity for communities, visit esri.com/en-us/federal-funding/overview.
About the Vermont Communications Union Districts Association
Vermont's CUDs have joined together to create the Vermont Communications Union Districts Association, an organization dedicated to developing ways to share resources amongst the Districts, as well as present a united front on policy issues, in order to make the rollout of universal high-speed internet in Vermont as quick and economical as possible.
About Stone Environmental
Stone Environmental is a 100% employee-owned environmental science, engineering, and field services firm located in Montpelier, Vermont. Founded in 1992, our mission is to provide tools, information, and analyses to help our clients solve environmental challenges with integrity, expertise, and innovation. Our diverse team of scientists, engineers, modelers, developers, and support staff share a commitment to excellence, creativity, and accountability through employee ownership. Our capabilities include environmental assessment and remediation, water resources management, environmental modeling, data quality assessments, support for agrochemical product stewardship and registration, geospatial analysis, data visualization, and application development. The company's headquarters is located in Montpelier, Vermont, with remote employees in Maine, Missouri, and Austria. Learn more at stone-env.com.
Esri, the global market leader in geographic information system (GIS) software, location intelligence, and mapping, helps customers unlock the full potential of data to improve operational and business results. Founded in 1969 in Redlands, California, USA, Esri software is deployed in more than 350,000 organizations globally and in over 200,000 institutions in the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, including Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, nonprofits, and universities. Esri has regional offices, international distributors, and partners providing local support in over 100 countries on six continents. With its pioneering commitment to geospatial information technology, Esri engineers the most innovative solutions for digital transformation, the Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced analytics. Visit us at esri.com/telecommunications.
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Jo Ann Pruchniewski
Public Relations, Esri