Those words were spoken recently by CVFiber Executive Director Jennille Smith, and they are definitely true. We continue to lay strand and fiber in Calais even as we look ahead to full construction this spring and the connection of our first subscribers, most likely in late spring. At the same time, we’re riding herd on a warehouse full of materials and ordering more so that construction can continue uninterrupted. And we continue to look for funding via grants and low-interest loans. Always something new, indeed!
The headlines for this update:
- CVFiber will hold an informational webinar on Wednesday, March 1.
- Construction continues to progress in Calais.
- Member towns can double their purchasing power by making grants to CVFiber.
- The FCC is seeking your input on broadband availability and problems with access.
- We’re upstaffing! An operations manager will soon be hired.
- Volunteers are needed to expand our committees.
And now, the details.
Regular Webinar Series Begins
CVFiber’s next informational webinar will be held on Wednesday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m. Access details are posted on our website. CVFiber leadership will give a full update on progress, next steps, and future challenges, and they’ll be happy to take your questions.
We are establishing a regular webinar schedule. From now on, there will be a webinar on the first Wednesday of every other month.
The Latest on Network Construction
Generally speaking, it’s been a good winter for construction. We won’t be going all out until spring, but the work continues to move forward. As of Feb. 22, contractors from Eustis Cable had completed 11.7 miles of strand and four miles of fiber in Calais, our first construction area. (The strand is hung first because it supports the fiber.)
We are finalizing the location for our first Optical Line Terminal (OLT), which you could think of as a substation in an electric power system. The plan is to ramp up construction when spring arrives and continue full speed through the 2023 construction season. Our goal is to build 400 miles of network this year, about one third of the projected 1,200-mile network.
We’re also preparing to order enough materials for another 200 miles. This must be done as soon as possible even though the work won’t begin until this fall at the earliest. Because of the federally funded national broadband effort, lead times for crucial materials are getting longer and longer. Our aim is to have enough materials on hand at all times to keep up the pace of construction.
If you’d like to know how we’re working with our partners National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) and Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom, you can view a video on our website.
Grant Matching Opportunity for Member Towns
Here’s a chance for our member communities to double their purchasing power on broadband. The Vermont Community Broadband Board has reopened its matching grant offer. Every town that commits a portion of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to CVFiber will see their grant matched by the VCBB. Every dollar of grant and match will go toward broadband within the granting town’s borders.
The VCBB first made this offer in 2022, and many of our member towns responded enthusiastically. They made grants totaling $833,000. With the matching funds, a total of $1.66 million was raised for broadband in our district.
Now, the VCBB has opened its offer for towns that commit at least $100,000 to CVFiber. This offer will expire on May 31.
The following communities have already hit or exceeded the $100,000 limit: Calais ($200,000), East Montpelier ($100,000), and Middlesex ($100,000). The other member communities can take advantage of this offer and double their purchasing power. If you live in one of those towns, please contact your elected officials and urge them to make a commitment to community-owned broadband.
FCC Seeks Input from Rural Residents
The Federal Communications Commission is still soliciting feedback on its deeply flawed map of broadband availability. The map, issued last fall, is extremely generous in its assessment of who can get broadband. It also doesn’t even include many addresses in rural areas.
This is crucial because the government is about to decide how to allocate $42.5 billion in federal Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) funds. For Vermont to get its fair share, the FCC’s Vermont map must be as accurate as possible. Many commercial carriers are vastly overstating their reach to block community-governed carriers from getting access to the BEAD program. The FCC has a dedicated webpage where you can easily check your address for broadband access and report any errors. Please take a few minutes to help CVFiber tap into the federal program that’s meant to foster rural broadband.
Separately, the FCC wants to hear about your struggles with obtaining broadband service. The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Act includes a provision aimed at preventing digital discrimination and requires the FCC to adopt rules to facilitate equal access to broadband. Each individual’s story will help paint an accurate picture of the broadband access issue. You can share your story online through a form available on the FCC’s website.
CVFiber Hiring Operations Manager, Adding Community Relations Manager
We are about to hire our second full-time employee. The Operations Manager will oversee network construction and operations. The position is needed as we ramp up to full-scale construction and look ahead to offering broadband service in some areas later this year. The OM will coordinate the activities of contractors, materials suppliers, and Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom, the contracted operator of our network.
We received roughly 80 applications. We’re now very close to choosing a finalist and expect to hire someone in time to start in April.
Our attention is turning now to a third hire: a Community Relations Manager. This person will work with CVFiber leadership to facilitate engagement with members of our communities. Robust communication will be crucial as we transition from an inward-facing organization to a public-facing service provider. Applications can be submitted by March 7 or until the position is filled. The full job description is posted in the “Careers” section of our website.
Call for Volunteers
“There’s always something new” means there’s always more to do. CVFiber is dependent on volunteers to do much of the work. Our volunteers find it highly rewarding; we’re working on a realistic plan to do something transformative for our district. Volunteers are needed to serve on our four committees: Communications, Finance & Audit, Planning & Development, and Policy.
You can find descriptions of each committee on our website. We are particularly seeking volunteers who have network operations experience, but people with any skills and experience are welcome. Please join us! When CVFiber’s network is complete, you’ll be able to say you played a part in making it happen!
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 20 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 see vacancies for delegates and alternates. Contact your community’s Select Board or City Council if you are interested in representing your community on the Board.
We also send regular updates to everyone on our email list. If you’d like to add yourself to the list, you sign up quickly and easily on the CVFiber homepage.