New Documentary Showcases Vermont's Unique Community Broadband Approach

Vermont logo

A new documentary, produced by the Vermont production company Well Told Films and the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB), tells the uplifting story of how community-minded Vermonters came together to solve a common challenge: the lack of high-speed Internet connectivity across the Green Mountain State.

Connected: Vermont’s Grassroots Effort for Rural Broadband” recently premiered at the Capitol Theater in Montpelier, giving viewers a front-row seat at how hundreds of volunteers (and later state leaders) rallied around the emergence of Communications Union Districts (CUDs) as the state's primary vehicle to bring high-quality Internet service to every resident and business in one of the most rural states in the nation.

The 35-minute film brings to life the story of how a community-based solution to solving the digital divide in Vermont came to be, while showcasing all of the progress that's been made since ECFiber, the state's first CUD, was established in 2007.

It begins with the celebration of ECFiber completing its fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network last year, an event at which U.S. Sen. Peter Welch succinctly summarized why the community broadband movement in Vermont was, and is, necessary:

"All this started with what at the time was really a radical idea – that if we in rural Vermont were going to depend on the big telecommunication companies to wire our homes to get us Internet, we'd be waiting until our grandchildren had grandchildren."

From there, we hear from the founders of ECFiber who tell the story in their own words: what prompted them into action, how they organized, and how they worked to navigate the many hurdles faced along the way. As the film explains (and as we have written about numerous times over the years), the success of ECFiber is what convinced state leaders to establish the law that allowed the formation of the state's nine other CUDs in which two or more towns could join together to create a municipal entity with the sole purpose of building modern telecommunication infrastructure.

Vermont CUD map

The filmmakers then widen the lens to include leaders from many of the other CUDs, all of whom give insight into how the CUDs have now reached a point where they cover 216 towns across every region of the state and are on the verge of bringing the gold-standard of Internet connectivity to more than 76% of the state’s population and 93% of the underserved homes and businesses in Vermont.

“Connected” doesn't just tell the story from the perspective of CUD leaders though. It also centers the stories of how broadband changed the lives of Vermonters – as the film features a farmer; a busy mom juggling work and children; a professional who wants to stay in his hometown in the Northeast Kingdom but needs reliable broadband to work; as well as those who operate and live in an elder care home.

All told, the film is a testament to how broadband has made it possible for Vermont residents to grow their own businesses, access healthcare and education, and stay connected to family and loved ones no matter where they live.

VCBB Executive Director Christine Hallquist, whose office is in charge of administering hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grant funds to build new broadband networks in Vermont, said the short documentary captures "an historic time in Vermont in the evolution of broadband connectivity," likening the effort to when Vermont homes and businesses first got electricity nearly a century ago.

And while "Connected" focuses on the work to bring fiber connectivity to every address in the state, Hallquist said the film will be of interest to viewers elsewhere: 

"It provides a roadmap for other communities and states that are struggling the way Vermont did, and tells a compelling and relatable human-interest story.”

A preview of "Connected" can be found here.

Or, you can watch the entire documentary below:

Remote video URL

For other documentaries about community broadband networks check out our Fiber Film Festival page here.