VTA announces recipients of incentive discounts for last-mile telecom providers

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VTA announces recipients of incentive discounts for last-mile telecom providers

Mon, 07/18/2011 - 10:59am -- tim

The Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) announced today that Southern Vermont Broadband Cooperative and Cloud Alliance, LLC, were selected to receive discounted commercial broadband connections on the Vermont FiberConnect network.  Additional award announcements are expected in the coming weeks. 
To meet the public interest needs of reaching more underserved areas of the state, VTA selected the last-mile providers while Sovernet Fiber Corp.  will offer them deeply discounted network connections.  Awards were based upon review and evaluation of the recipients’ responses to a Request for Proposal that was issued by the VTA in May. Each of the recipients demonstrated that their broadband service offerings would target the Hardwick area and Stamford which are among the most underserved communities in rural Vermont.
The VTA’s RFP offered as many as 10 commercial connections to the Vermont FiberConnect network which will be engineered and owned by Sovernet. ‘When these ‘last-mile’ service providers have a higher capacity lower cost option, like Vermont FiberConnect, they can more readily offer high speed broadband services, internet access, and other services directly to Vermont consumers with better coverage and more options,’ said Rich Kendall, CEO of Sovernet.  
Small internet service providers have been challenged to find affordable connections that enable provision of last-mile broadband service.  Michael Birnbaum of Cloud Alliance sums up the business scenario this way: ‘We at Cloud Alliance have been fortunate, since our inception in 2005, to have access to fiber-optic transmission of bandwidth. One provider has been available, and we paid very high rates for this most essential commodity. Vermont FiberConnect is a game-changer for our small, local company. This network will bring us guaranteed low-cost, high-capacity connections, with access to several competing carriers for bandwidth. While we wait for the project to be constructed to two new tower locations, it has already delivered a benefit; our existing provider, and now, others, are competing for our business, driving the costs down. As a result, we can already announce lower pricing for our current subscribers and for unserved households and businesses in our expansion area.’ 
‘These announcements help to show how the Vermont FiberConnect project will push fiber infrastructure more deeply into our underserved rural communities and how that will make better last-mile broadband services available,’ said Christopher Campbell, Executive Director of VTA.  The award takes the State of Vermont one step closer to achieving its goal of 100% broadband coverage by improving the business case for service providers to deploy services in areas with low population density. 
About Vermont FiberConnect: Vermont FiberConnect is 770 mile fiber optic network under development by Sovernet Fiber Corp, an affiliate of Vermont-based Sovernet Communications.
The network will connect over 340 community anchor institutions such as K-12 schools, colleges, public libraries, healthcare providers, government offices and public safety communications in southern, central, and northeastern Vermont, encompassing seven of Vermont’s fourteen counties. Vermont FiberConnect is also designed to provide wholesale data transport services to broadband and telecommunications service providers such as Internet service providers, telecom companies and cellular companies. The network will interconnect with several new adjoining regional ‘middle-mile’ fiber networks, including Network New Hampshire Now, MassBroadband 123 and the ION network in upstate New York. 
The project has been funded by a combination of public and private capital, including a $33.4 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), a $2 million grant from the State of Vermont via Vermont Telecommunication Authority, a $400,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and over $12 million of private capital committed by Sovernet. The VTA is the recipient of and conduit for the federal, state and foundation grants. Sovernet Fiber Corp. will build, own, operate and provide services over the Vermont FiberConnect network. 
NTIA funding of the project, through its BTOP ‘Comprehensive Community Infrastructure’ program, is intended to help ensure sustainable community growth, and to provide the foundation for enhanced household and business broadband Internet services by deploying new or improved broadband Internet facilities and connecting ‘community anchor institutions.’ For further information, please visitwww.vermontfiberconnect.com
Montpelier, VT ‘ July 18, 2011 Vermont Telecommunications Authority