This is an historic moment for CVFiber and the other communication union districts around Vermont. Federal Covid relief funds will provide a giant boost to universal broadband, turning an elusive goal into reality.
The important thing for the CUDs is to be ready to start the buildout as soon as possible. CVFiber is well-positioned to do just that. Here are the highlights of this update:
- We are finalizing an agreement with Washington Electric Co-op, in which WEC would run fiber on all its utility poles for broadband access.
- In May, we will begin an inventory of the thousands of poles in our service area.
- There is much activity in the Legislature around broadband. We’ll run down the latest.
- Thanks to an agreement with WEC and the Vermont Electric Power Company, we will be able to use an existing fiber line from East Montpelier to Maple Corner.
- The Regional Planning Commission has agreed to provide administrative support to CVFiber.
The WEC Partnership
We are about to reach an agreement with WEC that will see the utility run fiber on its network of power poles. This is a ready-made framework for broadband service. Also, WEC can borrow money at very low interest rates, so the agreement will make financing a lot easier.
As early as next month, you’ll see contract workers in the field gathering data about existing power poles. To build the network, we need precise, up to date information about pole location, height, condition, and available attachments. If you have a pole on your property, the contractor will briefly be on your property to gather the information.
The Scott administration and the Legislature are deciding how much of the federal Covid relief funds will be invested in broadband — and also deciding how and where it will be invested. These decisions are being made right now in the state Senate, so it’s a good time to contact your Senator/s on these issues.
Vermont has received $1.2 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and would receive even more later this year if the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan is adopted by Congress. Gov. Scott has proposed $250.5 million in ARRA funds for broadband and wireless. The House has passed a budget plan that would put $150 million specifically into broadband.
Just as important is how the money would be distributed. We believe that the CUDs are best positioned to deliver universal broadband. The House has approved a bill (H.360) that would put the CUDs at the heart of the effort, and require high-speed (100 mbps in both directions) service. The Scott administration puts CUDs at the front of the line, but keeps the door open to existing internet service providers such as Comcast and Consolidated Communications.
Some senators want to get the money out and start construction as quickly as possible, whether by CUDs or other carriers. From our perspective, CUDs are the only entities committed to universal high-speed service and are best positioned to deliver on that promise.
The WEC/VELCO Fiber Line
Thanks to an agreement with WEC and VELCO, we will be able to use a soon to be constructed fiber line from East Montpelier to Maple Corner, which should allow us to serve more than 100 homes along the route.
The Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission has agreed to provide administrative support to CVFiber. Since we’re an all-volunteer operation, this will be a great help.
Speaking of volunteers, if you’d like to join the effort, please get in touch. We have five all-volunteer committees: Communications, Finance & Audit, Planning & Development, and Policy. Visit our “Seeking Volunteers” webpage for information on how to get involved.