CVFiber is moving on all fronts toward the beginning of construction this summer, and the first service offerings by the end of the year! “Things are moving very quickly and very well,” said Jerry Diamantides, chair of the CVFiber Governing Board. Design plans are being finalized, we’re gearing up organizationally, we’re negotiating management/oversight contracts with our partners, and we’re seeking funding from the state and our member communities.
Here are the highlights for this month’s update.
- The high-level network design is complete; the pole inventories continue.
- We’ll receive 74 miles of fiber in April, and 302 miles (worth $800,000) in September.
- We continue to seek grant funding from our 21 member communities and the state.
- CVFiber is creating an internal structure to handle large-scale construction activity.
- As we look ahead to offering service, we’re developing marketing and sales plans.
- We are committed to making high-speed broadband affordable for all.
- We’re developing an FAQ section for our website and welcome your suggestions.
And here are the details.
Moving Forward on Network Design and Pole Inventories
Vantage Point Solutions has completed the high-level design of the 1,200-mile CVFiber network, which was funded by grants for that specific purpose. The detailed design, costing in excess of $2 million, will be undertaken by the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) and will begin in April. This will be funded in part by the $2.8 million preconstruction grant awarded to CVFiber by the Vermont Community Broadband Board last October.
Meanwhile, the pole inventory is making good progress despite this winter’s occasionally heavy snowfalls. The inventory is complete in Plainfield, Roxbury and Washington, and our contractors Apex and Tilson are moving on to Williamstown next.
CVFiber Expecting Its First Fiber Delivery in April
More details than you want to know, but CVFiber will receive 40 miles of 144-strand fiber and 34 miles of 48-strand fiber in April. Bottom Line: We ordered early to save money and acquire fiber in advance of the construction season. In addition to this $800,000 of fiber, we will be ordering almost $2 million of other materials in the next 45 days.
As Construction Approaches, Funding Search Continues
CVFiber expects to receive about $27,000,000 in construction funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), administered by the VCBB. That’s a little over half of the $50,000,000 estimated cost of the entire CVFiber network, but more funds are needed, either from grants or by incurring debt. We are seeking grants from member communities’ ARPA funds. Without those local grants, we would be going to the bond market in 2023, which would mean higher subscription rates and possible delays in construction.
Any grants from a member town will be spent as the town chooses and within the community’s borders. Plus, there’s an opportunity right now to double the funds spent within your community!
The Vermont Community Broadband Board is encouraging early commitments of town ARPA funds by offering to match the first $1.5 million in commitments to CVFiber. Those matching dollars will go toward connecting underserved homes, community facilities, or other locations chosen by the community. So this is a great opportunity to make your town’s ARPA funds go farther. If you want subscription rates to be as low as possible and for the CVFiber Community Network to be available as soon as possible, consider making a commitment of town ARPA funds as soon as possible. The matching offer will expire when the $1.5 million is allocated or on September 15th, whichever comes first. First come, first served. Let your Select Board know how important connectivity is to you, your family, and your community.
Management Contracts Coming Together
“We’re going through some serious changes as an organization,” said CVFiber Board chair Jerry Diamantides. These will put us in position to meet the challenges of constructing and operating a fiber network.
The changes include the hiring of an Executive Director, which will happen in the very near future. CVFiber is in the process of concluding negotiations with Waitsfield Champlain Valley Telecom to serve as the network manager and Internet service provider; reached agreement with Mission Broadband to coordinate pole attachment applications, pole make-ready work, and intervene with utility vendors, as well as performing other consulting roles; and selected K. Kotecki ROW Permitting Services LLC to acquire the necessary permits and easements.
CVFiber Using Front Porch Forum to Keep Communities Informed
We’re stepping up our communications effort through a contract with Front Porch Forum which will allow us to post two messages per month to residents of our 21 member communities. Since so many households are FPF users, this is a great way to keep district residents informed. If you haven’t discovered FPF, consider signing on. It’s a free service, and it allows you and your neighbors to keep in touch about events, issues, problems and resources in your communities.
Working Toward Digital Equity
This isn’t an event, but a reminder of CVFiber’s ongoing commitment toward accessible and affordable high-speed broadband. This includes keeping prices as low as possible and creating a mechanism to assist low-income households with their payments. “This is an evolving issue that’s going to get bigger and bigger,” said Worcester delegate Allen Gilbert at this month’s Governing Board meeting.
In fact, affordability and equal access are mandated in Act 71, the law that created the Vermont Community Broadband Board. “We need to have a way to support low-income households and help them get connected,” said Holly Groschner, former CEO of Vermont Public Television, now a VCBB member and also head of Equal Access to Broadband, which is developing a process to make this commitment a reality.
CVFiber.net: FAQs and Other Improvements
Linda Gravell, Waterbury delegate to the Governing Board, and Waterbury alternate Christopher Shenk, are constantly updating our website to make it more accessible and provide as much information as possible. If you have suggestions, you can reach Linda or Christopher via the “Governing Board” page of our website.
Allen Gilbert has been working on a FAQ section for the website. He’s compiled FAQ pages from other communications union districts as a starting point and is looking for input on what questions are frequently asked so we can provide clear answers. We want the FAQ section up and running before we start offering service to our first customers. If you have suggestions, you can post them via our Contact page.
Connect with CVFiber
You can reach out to your representatives on the Governing Board, which includes one delegate and one or more alternate(s) from each of our 21 communities. A list of delegates and alternates can be found on our Governing Board page or you can contact your delegation on our Contact page. You may note that there are vacancies for delegates and alternates. Contact your Select Board if you are interested in joining the endeavor to make universal broadband a reality.
You can also volunteer to serve on our committees. There is no deadline for applying. See https://cvfiber.net/2021/03/cvfiber-seeking-volunteers/