CRAFTSBURY, VT — As Vermont schools try and figure out what the fall will bring, remote learning is still a concern, especially for those who do not have reliable internet.

Mitchell Hunt is a Craftsbury resident and the Dean of Students at the Maplehill School and Farm in Plainfield. He said when his school was forced to go remote due to the pandemic, it was difficult to connect with his students.

“So, I have two kids that are in school so if we were all on zoom at the same time it doesn’t work and I’d get dropped from important meetings,” said Hunt

Like many rural Vermonters, Hunt has limited access to internet and cell service. So, in the spring he spent nearly five hours a day outside or in his car at the Craftsbury Public Library to access public Wi-Fi.

“Without this, I would have a hard time getting my work done and that’s just the bottom line,” said Hunt.

On town meeting day, over 27 rural towns voted to form a communications union district to raise revenue to build and operate a broadband network in the Northeast Kingdom.

Katherine Sims is the Director of the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative, a non-profit that focuses on ways to better the community. She said the pandemic has made broadband issues more relevant.

“It’s highlighted the stark difference between other parts of Vermont where there’s often sometimes universal access and here in our region where so many houses struggle to connect,” said Sims.

Sims and Hunt hope to accomplish short term goals of things like Wi-Fi hotspots ready for the fall. For the long term, Sims hopes to have a network that will connect everyone in the Northeast Kingdom with reliable high-speed internet.

Hunt suggested for the time being, putting more money into public Wi-Fi at places like the library or schools. He said there should be open areas and designated parking spots that families can go to and access Wi-Fi.