There is nothing bad to say about Gov. Phil Scott hiring Christine Hallquist as executive director of the newly-minted Vermont Community Broadband Board. It’s the kind of move that makes Scott so likeable to so many people.
How many elected officeholders would hire a former political rival to a high-profile position? Not many. But Scott saw Hallquist as the best person for the job, so he hired her without hesitation. In this day and age, it’s so good to see a politician acting in a completely non-political way, putting policy above politics.
The hire is also noteworthy because it shows that Scott is fully on board with the communications union district model, in which community-based nonprofit CUDs would build fiber connections where no commercial operator had been willing to go.
And, especially if the state is adopting this model, Hallquist is clearly the most capable and experienced person for the post.
In recent years, she’s been personally involved in the development of community-based broadband operations. Before that, she was head of the Vermont Electric Coop. During her 2018 campaign for governor, she proposed making the state’s electric utilities responsible for creating a statewide fiber network. Since then, we’ve turned to the CUD model — but some (perhaps all) of the CUDs are partnering with local utilities on network construction and financing. My area’s CUD, CVFiber, will build its fiber network on existing utility poles.
Also, at a time when many Republican politicos are trying to whip up hatred against transgender people and enact exclusionary laws, Phil Scott stands out by bringing a trans person into a high-profile post in his administration.
If anyone can realize the promise of universal high-speed broadband, it’s Hallquist. The governor is to be congratulated for seeing that. and being willing to act on it.