Q. What is CVFiber?

A: CVFiber is a Communications Union District (“CUD”) of 18 towns in Central Vermont. A CUD is a unique kind of Vermont municipality governed by a board of delegates—each appointed by the member towns’ select boards—whose work is to facilitate the development of community-based Internet services. CVFiber’s single aim is to help residents and organizations gain access to fast, reliable Internet with a goal of 100/100 Mbps service. In particular, our focus is on providing that access to those members of the community without good options today.

Q. 100/100? How could we get such fast service?

A. CVFiber expects to develop networks primarily of  fiber-optic cables to connect all subscribers. The capacity on such a network is so great that it could offer tens of thousands of television channels, allow thousands of people to talk on the phone, simultaneously offering Internet access at faster speeds than a cable, DSL, or wireless systems currently offer.

Q: Why do we need this?

A: Vermont ranks 43rd in the nation for Internet transfer speeds. Businesses and families benefit from better Internet access, but the existing service providers haven’t provided universal access because we’re too rural. CVFiber can do this because, as a not-for-profit municipality, our goal is providing access, not profits for shareholders. Our ability to attract and retain a new generation of families requires having the infrastructure they expect.  Additionally, the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for such a system.

Q. When am I going to get this service?

A. The rollout of service to every home and business in our community will take time and requires financing and the ability to show cash-positive returns in order to borrow the money we need to continually expand the network to every location. We are also looking for grants that would help underwrite the cost of construction. We believe that the Federal government will be expanding broadband grant programs, which will allow us to fund the system faster than relying just on borrowed money. In our current planning, we will be able to build out in four or five phases. We anticipate that construction of the first 120 miles will begin in early 2021.

Q: How much will my taxes go up?

A: Zero. Although we are considered a municipal entity, it is illegal for us to make use of any of your local taxes. If you decide to subscribe to CVFiber, you would pay a one-time installation fee (depending on your property’s unique circumstances) and a monthly fee for Internet service. If not, there is no cost to you or your city or town.

In fact, having reliable, high-speed Internet may help keep taxes down over the long run.  Broadband is crucial to attracting and retaining younger families and—due to our education funding system in Vermont—retaining and attracting more families with school-aged children helps keep those education costs in check.

Q. What other benefits will CVFiber bring?

A. CVFiber will be able to provide the absolute latest technology for the next generation, which could lead to increased property values and promote economic development. Currently young people looking to move to Vermont will only move to communities that have high-speed broadband.

Q. What does public ownership mean?

A. Public or community means that the public has some measure of self-determination over the network. Much like the water department is accountable to the public and therefore does not raise water rates unreasonably, those running the network would be accountable to the public. If the community decided to offer subsidized connections to those living below the poverty line, they could do that. If they wanted more than a few community channels, they could easily create them.

Q: Who owns the infrastructure and takes on the debt?

A: CVFiber is a municipal district. Cities or towns in the district are not liable for debt and are not responsible for maintaining the infrastructure.  CVFiber might own the infrastructure outright or partner with other organizations to do so.

Q: Can this work? Is Vermont dense enough?

A: Yes! Just to the south of us, another CUD—called ECFiber—already provides extremely high-speed Internet service to 24 member towns. If the district has around 6 subscribers per mile of fiber, it’s financially feasible.

Q: How much will this service cost?

A: We don’t know for sure, but expect to have rates similar to ECFiber’s, which start with a dedicated 25/25 fiber connection for $72/month. When we are finished with our business plan (~July 2020) we will have a clearer picture as to what monthly rates will make the system financially possible.

Q. How fast will it be?

A. Our goal is to ensure access to all of our communities at speeds of at least 25Mbps, potentially up to 10 Gigabit speed download and upload. It will not decrease during peak times like you may experience with your current provider. Currently many of our residents are getting spotty 4Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds, if even that.

Q: Will CVFiber respect Net Neutrality and user privacy?

A: Yes. We will never block or throttle traffic or sell your user data.

Q: What is a fiber network?

A: A fiber network consists of a cable with many, tiny, glass fibers or strands that transmit information with pulses of light. Vermont has an existing fiber backbone (see map). CVFiber would connect to this and then install fiber cable on existing utility poles or underground where necessary. The connection to your home is like telephone or cable television service. A fiber cable would run from the nearest utility pole to your home or business either in the air or underground. A smaller fiber cable  would then be connected to a “box” similar to your cable modem or DSL modem to provide the Internet service in your house.

Q. What if a better technology comes along in a few years?

A. Fiber networks are nearly future-proof. The speeds capable via fiber networks are still increasing with new electrical and optical technologies.  The attached equipment may evolve, but the fiber itself has a life measured in decades. Though other technologies may come along, fiber networks will always be extremely fast and uniquely reliable. These networks will have paid for themselves many times over before becoming obsolete. As an interim solution, particularly in more remote or sparsely settled areas, CVFiber may support the deployment of advanced, fixed-wireless networks prior to extending fiber.

Q. Doesn’t fiber break easily?

The individual glass fibers are extremely fragile, but they are bundled together in strong, armored sheaths. Fiber can be cut, just like phone lines or power lines are severed. That said, they have proven more resilient than power lines in ice storms and tornadoes. Fiber networks have been used for decades and the tools for keeping them running 24/7 are mature.

Q. Don’t existing companies already have fiber networks?

A. Most telecom and cable companies have some fiber as parts of their network, but they do not typically connect residential customers to the network with fiber. So while other providers may run fiber to your neighborhood, they typically connect the last mile with slower copper wires that create a bottleneck, resulting in slower speeds that leave us less competitive in a world increasingly requiring faster speeds. Non fiber-to-the-premises networks cannot offer the same experience or guarantee the same high level of service that a true community fiber network offers.

Q. Isn’t Cable as good as fiber?

A. The latest technology that is standard for cable modem networks will greatly increase the available speeds offered by cable companies over time. However, cable networks are only available in densely settled areas, and the companies over-subscribe their services, leaving them vulnerable to a few subscribers hogging bandwidth and degrading service for everyone else. You can mostly get high speed download, but upload speeds are significantly slower. This has become increasingly more important when doing more intensive two-way communications such as video conferencing, telehealth, and educational delivery.

Q. Do we really need faster connections?

A. Some of us do now, and nearly all of us will soon. When Eisenhower decided to push the Interstate system, it was not with the idea that everyone would have to use it. However, business and government functions were greatly improved by this massive infrastructure project. Over time, more and more people recognized its value. We need more choices. Those that need fast and affordable connections should have the option.

Q. What is Symmetric vs Asymmetric?

A. Symmetric connections have the same download speeds as upload speeds. This means that you can send a file to someone else just as fast as you could get it from them. Asymmetric connections tend to offer much slower upload speeds, which can slow usage of the modern Internet to a crawl and negatively impact activities like video calls, gaming, telehealth, and business data needs. Very slow upload speeds can even negatively impact download speeds. Both cable and DSL networks are usually asymmetrical by design.

Q. Why not wireless?

A. Mobile wireless is great but does not offer comparable speeds or the reliability of fiber connections—and usage is often capped. Fixed wireless has its place, too (as we mentioned above in the technology answer). Wireless is simply not a replacement for a full fiber-to-the-premises network. Where either fixed or mobile wireless towers are needed,  fiber networks provide the “backhaul” to power them. We expect that to be the case with CVFiber networks. 

Q. Does any special equipment need to be installed in or on my house?

A. CVFiber will need to place a new device called an network interface device (“NID”) on the outside of your home or business. This may or may not be where the old connection was, depending upon several factors. An indoor device called an optical network terminal (“ONT” and a separate power source will also need to be placed inside your home or business.

Further Reading questions