Gov. Phil Scott and state officials highlighted an administration proposal to improve cell coverage across the state by investing over $50 million to construct new towers and spur expanded coverage. Scott and Department of Public Safety Commissioner June Tierney discussed the proposal that was part of Scott’s budget plan during the state’s media briefing Tuesday. Scott said while recent years have seen a focus and emphasis on improving broadband connectivity across the state, cell service needed investment as well. “Even though broadband has received a lot of attention, anybody, like me, who has driven around the state a lot can tell you it’s time we bring Vermont into the 21st century with cell service as well,” said Scott. The proposal is to spend $51 million of infrastructure money made available to Vermont in the American Rescue Plan to evaluate existing coverage and needs, and build 100 towers in rural portions of the state with limited or no cell coverage. Scott and Tierney said cell service was important for public safety, the economy, education, health care and tourism, and was an issue of equity as well for Vermonters. “Cell coverage is a necessity and it’s an area where we need to do much, much better,” said Scott. “It’s not a luxury, it’s an expectation.” Scott said the proposal was in line with his contention that 1-time pandemic money should be spent on transformative tangible initiatives and that public investment in cell service is required to close the coverage gaps. Scott noted it would be difficult to fund a project like this in the future without the federal money. “Many people in Vermont do not have cell service said Tierney, noting the more rural areas lack the population density to make them profitable for carriers to invest in the necessary equipment and towers.
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