The CVFiber Governing Board’s April 12 meeting was an historic event. The Board made four crucial decisions that set a path and established a structure for network construction, which is scheduled to begin later this year. Board member Ray Pelletier of Northfield likened the pace of work to “drinking from a firehose,” but all agreed that this is a nice problem to have. It’s the realization of four years of planning and organization that came before.
Here are the items in this month’s update:
- Jennille Smith was hired as CVFiber’s Executive Director.
- CVFiber seeks commitments of member towns’ federal ARPA funds.
- The Governing Board approved a construction sequencing plan covering the initial phases of network buildout.
- The Board approved contracts for design and operation of the network with two of our partners.
- The Board voted to give the Executive Committee more authority to make time-sensitive decisions.
- Our first delivery of fiber has arrived, with much more on the way.
Now, let’s get to the details!
CVFiber Welcomes Its First-Ever Executive Director
CVFiber has hired Jennille Smith as its Executive Director and first full-time employee. Smith grew up in an off-grid Starksboro home built by her parents and graduated from Mount Abe High School in Bristol. She is an attorney who has spent most of her career building communications infrastructure. She comes to CVFiber from FirstNet, the federally mandated program to expand cell service in rural Vermont. “We found the right person at the right time,” said CVFiber Board Chair Jerry Diamantides.
Smith’s first day on the job was Monday, April 11. Her arrival comes at a crucial time, as CVFiber transitions from an all-volunteer planning operation to a real-world builder and operator of a high-speed broadband network. Smith will serve under the direction of CVFiber’s Board Chair and Executive Committee. Smith said her priority is “getting to know all the communities served by CVFiber.”
CVFiber Seeks Towns’ Financial Commitment
CVFiber delegates have been presenting our case for a share of town American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA ) grant funds to our communities’ Select Boards and City Councils. The response has been enthusiastic, with several towns eager to commit funds once the details are nailed down. This enthusiasm has been amplified by the limited-time matching opportunity from the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB).
Reminder: VCBB will match the first $1.5 million in commitments from CVFiber communities. That means if a town acts soon, its contribution will be doubled. All town grants and matching funds will be devoted to construction within the town’s borders. But once we receive $1.5 million in commitments, the match is over. And the opportunity will end on September 30th either way. If you want fast Internet service in your community as soon as possible, please urge your town officials to make a commitment to CVFiber.
Our neighboring Communications Union District, ECFiber, financed much of its construction by borrowing. As a result, 43% of its fees go to debt service. With commitments of grant funds, CVFiber can do much less borrowing and deliver service at the lowest possible price. Every town grant will help us achieve that goal.
Governing Board Approves a Construction Sequencing Plan
The following three items are linked. Together they establish a framework defining the duties of our network partners and their relationship to CVFiber. While the CVFiber Executive Committee and Executive Director will oversee all activities, we are partnering with well-established and like-minded organizations to perform much of the actual work.
At its April 12 meeting, the CVFiber Board approved a construction sequencing plan based upon serving the underserved, business sustainability, and engineering requirements. “We’ve been working on this for at least two years,” said Diamantides. “We started with a feasibility study, and we’ve been building on that ever since.”
Also on April 12, the Board approved service agreements with the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) to perform design and engineering services, project and construction management, and quality control. The project plan puts high priority on service to unserved and underserved addresses.
That April 12 meeting was long and extremely productive. The Board also approved a contract with Waitsfield Champlain Valley Telecom to be CVFiber’s Internet service provider and network manager. As the network is built and we begin to offer service, WCVT will be the backbone and customer interface for customer service, troubleshooting and day-to-day management. Included in the agreement are standards for customer service and maintenance of the network.
Board Grants the Executive Committee More Authority
As activity has been ramping up, the Executive Committee has begun meeting regularly twice a month, plus special meetings as needed. This is necessary to keep up with the pace of activities and decision making. Meanwhile, the Governing Board continues to meet once a month. As a result, the Board has approved changes in the Board/Executive Committee relationship that will allow the EC more authority to make decisions over a wider area, while still maintaining the Board’s ultimate control and oversight.
Reminder: the Governing Board includes delegates and alternates from CVFiber’s 21 member communities. (Each community gets one vote on each decision.) The Executive Committee is made up of the CVFiber chair, vice chair and clerk, the Executive Director, and the chairs of our four committees. They include Chair and Berlin delegate Jerry Diamantides; Vice Chair Siobhan Perricone of Orange; Board Clerk Jeremy Matt of Plainfield; Communications chair Chuck Burt of Moretown; Finance & Audit chair Ray Pelletier of Northfield; Planning & Development chair David Healy of Calais; Policy chair Allen Gilbert of Worcester; and Executive Director Smith. The chairs of the committees and committee members are appointed by the Governing Board. Any resident of CVFiber’s 21 member communities can be appointed as a voting member of a committee. More information on CVFiber’s leadership and committees is available on the Governance page of our website.
CVFiber Receives First Delivery of Fiber
On April 21, CVFiber received a shipment of 11 six-by-eight-foot spools, each weighing 3,000 pounds, plus nine five-by-seven-foot spools. That’s enough fiber to cover roughly 75 miles. It was the first in a series of shipments totaling 300 miles of fiber that was ordered last November. Much more fiber and other supplies will be on the way shortly. “We’re compiling a bill of materials for roughly 400 miles of construction,” said Diamantides. That’s enough to build one third of our network. Diamantides added, “The point of doing this now is that we knew what we would need and we knew there are long lead times for delivery of the supplies we need.”
Storage of large quantities of fiber, etc., also entails access to warehousing, insurance, security, and other details.
Executive Director Jennille Smith was on hand to receive the shipment. She said, “I want to thank everyone who’s been involved in this important delivery, including Washington Electric Coop, the Vermont Communication Union District Association, the Vermont Community Broadband Board, and the Vermont Community Foundation. Without all of these people, this delivery wouldn’t have happened.”
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 through our Contact page. You may note that there are vacancies for delegates and alternates. Contact your community’s Select Board or City Council if you are interested in joining a team that is making universal broadband in rural Vermont a reality.
Please also consider volunteering to serve on one of our committees. This is a community-oriented effort; the more people who are involved, the stronger we are.