CVFiber Update – August 2020

Key Take-Aways:

  1. Extension of Existing Providers’ Lines Drawing Interest
  2. CVFiber Aiming for 2021 Fiber to the Premises Project Start
  3. CVFiber Applied for Federal Funds For Fixed Wireless Service in 2020
  4. CVFiber Hiring Project Manager

There’s been a lot of news, and questions, in the last few weeks about high-speed Internet expansion into rural areas. The CVFiber board has been holding frequent meetings to stay ahead of developments.

1. Extension of Existing Providers’ Lines Drawing Interest

Much of the news comes from actions taken by the Legislature before it recessed in July. Significant funds were allocated to support expansion. Some funds come as incentives, others come as outright grants.

The purpose of the incentives is to encourage existing telecommunications companies to extend lines into areas with little or no robust Internet connectivity. The incentives of $3,000 go to residents who contract with a telecommunications company to provide better Internet service. The residents would use the $3,000 incentive to help pay the company’s cost of extending lines, and would agree to a service contract for a set number of years at a set price. While connection speeds would be faster than what residents may now have, the basic service is likely to be 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. This is the federal minimum for sufficient broadband Internet service. Some companies may be able to offer higher speeds up to 50 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up.

At CVFiber, we’re continuing to plan to build a fiber optic network that will offer what is increasingly defined as “high-speed” Internet – 100 Mbps down and 100 Mbps up. We believe these speeds will become, in a few years, the new minimums for robust Internet service.

2. CVFiber Aiming for 2021 Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) Project Start

We didn’t get the grant we’d hoped to receive from the Northern Border Regional Commission, but we continue to seek out other grant sources, state and federal,  and to line up loans. We expect the first phase of FTTP will start in 2021. Where we start hasn’t been determined, but we will be looking at high-need areas where we can connect a sufficient number of people to produce a revenue stream that can then be used to sustain the operation and build more lines. We are discussing a partnership with Washington Electric Coop to service many areas of the district. They too are a nonprofit, providing service to areas that are beyond the service areas of traditional for-profit utilities. WEC is asking residents in Central Vermont towns to respond to a survey  to help their planning. Please take: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/5753642/WEC-SURVEY

3. CVFiber Applied for Federal Funds For Fixed Wireless Service in 2020

CVFiber has received some state COVID relief grant money that we’ll be using for planning. We have also applied for special federal funds, administered by the state, to help bring faster Internet service to families with schoolchildren, people working at home, and people needing to access telehealth services. Since these funds must be appropriated and projects finished by Dec. 30, 2020, CVFiber’s only option is to build a fixed wireless infrastructure, that is, short-range wireless signals beamed from antennas to receivers at people’s houses. Such a system typically provides download speeds between 15 and 50 Mbps. While not as fast as fiber, it would provide those most in need with service, or better service, while we design, fund, and implement a Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) solution throughout the district.  We expect to hear about our application within 4 weeks.

The good news is that there is a much greater awareness now than there was six months ago about the need for high-speed Internet service for everyone, whether they live in urban or rural areas. The system up to now has been fragmented, and construction to new areas has depended on whether expansion would be profitable for those companies with existing lines. A nonprofit model committed to connecting everyone with high-speed Internet service will work if it can provide fast speeds and great service at a reasonable price. We know this is possible because of the success of ECFiber in the Upper Valley area of northern Windsor and Orange counties. [See https://www.ecfiber.net ]

4. CVFiber Hiring A Project Manager

We’re in the process of contracting with a project manager, hopefully to oversee the fixed wireless project above.  Expect an announcement soon about the PM.

A board of 20 volunteer members is not an ideal operational model, and we recognize the need for full-time help to achieve our mission.

We need your support as we grow. And we hope you’ll connect to our nonprofit, public system when our lines go up. The more customers on a road who subscribe to Internet service from CVFiber, the sooner and the more lines we’ll be able to build to all areas in the twenty communities in our district.