Tilson Helps Vermont Utilities Develop Ground-breaking Broadband Strategy to Bridge Digital Divide

 

Overview 

Tilson's Utility Consulting team worked closely with VELCO, GMP, and other Vermont utilities and stakeholders to develop a unique proposal for a “Temporary Unserved Location Broadband Deployment Rider” (Broadband Rider) to discount make-ready costs up to $2000 per premise for any network developer building to unserved locations.

In a first-of-its-kind decision, the Vermont Public Utility Commission recently approved the three-year tariff riders for utility support of broadband deployment to the state's citizens most impacted by the Digital Divide. 

This unique strategy marks a new approach for utility support of broadband infrastructure and demonstrates Tilson’s ability to develop innovative solutions that meet multiple needs. The Broadband Rider program will help speed broadband deployment to almost 12,000 underserved premises in GMP and VEC territory and will save entities deploying broadband in Vermont up to $18 million in make-ready costs over three years.
 

The Challenge 

The COVID-19 pandemic created a crisis for the many homes, businesses, and medical facilities in Vermont without adequate internet access. Vermont's utilities wanted to support broadband deployment, but in a way that was equitable and available to any broadband provider, ensuring that customers have the connectivity necessary to access all utility energy services programs, including energy storage, demand response, peak management, and electric vehicle charging.

Tilson worked closely with the utilities to both understand the scope of the broadband need and develop a means for speeding broadband deployment.  Tilson sought to collaboratively craft a solution that met utilities' needs for customer connectivity to ensure energy equity and did not require them to choose specific broadband providers for the benefit.

“Tilson’s analytic capabilities coupled with an incredible work ethic and collaborative mindset helped advanced delivery of broadband services to some of those who need it most. They’re making a difference in Vermonters’ lives.”

- Kerrick Johnson, VELCO's Chief Innovation and Communications Officer

The Solution

Tilson collaborated with the electric utilities and state and local stakeholders on development of a unique model for utility support of consumer broadband deployment. The Tilson team provided real-time data on make-ready costs, modeled the business cases for deployment, developed high-level designs, and reacted quickly to requests for additional information and changes to the proposal. The coalescing of support around the Broadband Rider proposal, which faced no public opposition at the Vermont PUC, demonstrates Tilson's problem-solving skills and ability to develop innovative solutions that meet multiple needs.

Tilson provided information on make-ready costs based on its own broadband projects in Vermont.  These costs provided the foundation for setting the $2,000 incentive as an appropriate incentive level.  Tilson also convened many stakeholders and held innumerable video calls to generate support for the Broadband Rider, working through many different iterations of the Broadband Rider with the utilities. The Tilson team was especially skilled at adjusting the proposal to address various concerns raised by stakeholders, remaining composed and focused on the goal of speeding broadband deployment through a long and complex process, and ultimately generating broad support for the proposal.

The Broadband Rider program will help speed broadband deployment to almost 12,000 underserved premises in GMP and VEC territory and will save entities deploying broadband in Vermont up to $18 million in make-ready costs over three years.

The Commission's approvals, issued on March 12, 2021, and the GMP filings, Cases 21-0544-TR and 21-0546-PET, as well as the VEC filing, Case 21-0807-TF, are available on the Vermont Public Utility Commission website. 

 

HOW TILSON CAN HELP

‚ÄčTilson partners with public and private sector community leadership to plan, design, construct, and maintain viable and cost-effective broadband networks that are essential to communities' safety, economy, health, and quality of life.

To learn more about Tilson's service offering for utilities, visit our utilities page or contact Elin Katz, Tilson's VP of Utilities, at ekatz@tilsontech.com.