Here’s why NH Legislative Fiscal Committee must approve $40M in federal broadband funding on Dec. 2

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O P I N I O N

THE SOAPBOX

Stand up. Speak up. It’s Your Turn.


Attached please find a letter that many towns in NH, including my small town of Hancock in the Monadnock Region, have signed in anticipation of a vote this Friday Dec. 2 as to whether to release $40M in federal money targeted for broadband infrastructure buildout across the state. The towns included in this letter have joined together to implore the members of the Fiscal Committee to vote to release this much-needed $40M so the many unserved rural residences in the state can at long last get high-speed, reliable internet.

A little context: the State issued an RFP for broadband grant funding but at the last minute the Fiscal Committee tabled the funding for the program, jeopardizing access to much-needed broadband for rural residents across the state. The Fiscal Committee is meeting this Friday to decide whether or not to fund the program.

Imagine it’s 1936 and all the towns around you have electricity except yours. Your neighbors are using power saws to cut their cords of wood, electric washing machines to wash their clothes, getting their news and entertainment at night from radio. You are living down the road a few miles away reading your newspaper by kerosene lamp and hand sawing your dozens of cords of wood.

This is what it feels like in 2022 to be one of the thousands of residences in rural NH without access to high-speed, reliable internet. To be “unserved” in 2022 is to live a life without a fundamental utility.  Forget about starting a business from home, wait an extra two months to get an in-person doctors appointment, lose young vital families to nearby towns with better internet, wave goodbye to your adult children three days early because there isn’t enough internet speed for them to work remotely while they visit you. The list goes on and on.

Every month we fall further behind our neighbors who already have access to the tools needed to fully engage in modern life. We need high-speed internet now, not years from now.


Below is an open letter to the New Hampshire Legislative Fiscal Committee:

We representatives of the undersigned towns were very troubled to see you tabled an item to accept $40 million in federal funding to build broadband to unserved and underserved areas in our State during your meeting on November 18, 2022.

The unserved residents and businesses in our communities have been waiting decades for high-speed internet.

The recent pandemic demonstrated the absolute necessity of high-quality affordable broadband to EVERY resident and business in the community. Without reliable internet access, children in our community are unable to participate in virtual learning; home-based businesses are unable to participate fully in the digital economy; and residents are unable to perform core functions from home, such as applying for a job online, managing bank accounts and accessing telehealth services.

We understand the issue from the committee’s perspective is a technical question regarding the appropriate funding mechanism. From the towns’ perspective, the mechanism for funding broadband expansion is far less important than getting the money out quickly. If the Committee does not approve the funding at the December 2, 2022 meeting, our state will be left without important broadband funding for an indeterminate amount of time.

This CANNOT wait.

A delay means the residents of our towns without reliable internet will miss yet one more build season that could provide us connectivity. The issue is quite simple: the Federal government has given the State of New Hampshire money to provide reliable affordable internet to those that are unserved. It is the duty of the New Hampshire Fiscal Committee to accept the money now, as a Christmas present to those of us who have been left out all these decades. The work needs to get going.

Signed:

Town: Alstead

Name: Gordon Kemp 

Role: Chair of the Broadband Committee 


Town: Alstead

Name: Matt Saxton

Role: Selectboard Member 


Town: Chatham

Name: Susan Laskin 

Role: Broadband Representative


Town: Chatham

Name: Ron Briggs

Role: Resident


Town: Alstead

Name: Joel McCarty 

Role: Selectboard Member 


Town: Chatham

Name: Bert Weiss

Role: Broadband Representative 

Town: Chatham

Name: Patricia Pitman

Role: Town Clerk


Town: Chatham

Name: Riley Pitman

Role: Selectman

Town: Croydon

Name: Dale Cunningham

Role: Co-Chair of the Broadband Committee


Town: Freedom

Name: Melissa Florio

Role: Selectman and Broadband Representative


Town: Hancock

Name: Mollie Miller 

Role: Chair of the Broadband Committee 


Town: Ossipee

Name: Matt Sawyer Jr

Role: Town Administrator 


Town: Shelburne

Name: Michael Prange

Role: Energy and Technology Committee


Town: Shelburne

Name: Don Kernan 

Role: Energy and Technology Committee


Town: Shelburne

Name: Lucy Evans

Role: Selectman 


Town: Easton

Name: Zak Mei

Role: Chair of the Selectboard


Town: Freedom

Name: Linda Mailhot

Role: Carroll County Communications District Planning Committee


Town: Newbury

Name: Graham Hoffman

Role: Chair of the Broadband Committee


Town: Randolph

Name: Kathleen Kelley

Role: Chair of the Broadband Committee 


Town: Shelburne

Name: Ray Danforth 

Role: Energy and Technology Committee


Town: Shelburne

Name: Stanley Judge

Role: Chair of the Selectboard


Town: Tamworth 

Name: Pat Farley

Role: Chair of the Economic Development Commission and Broadband Committee 


Town: Winchester

Name: Natalie Quevedo

Role: Chair of the Broadband Committee 


Town: Dalton

Name: Jo Beth Dudley

Role: Selectboard Chair


Town: Dalton

Name: Carol Sheltry

Role: Selectboard


Town: Berlin

Name: Pamela E Laflamme

Role: Director of Strategic Initiatives

Assistant City Manager


Town: Dalton

Name: Tamela Swan

Role: Selectboard


Town: Franconia

Name: Eric Meth

Role: Selectboard Member

Broadband Committee Representative


 

About this Author

molliemiller

Mollie Miller

Mollie Miller serves as chair of the Hancock Telecommunications Committee.