Maple Broadband and WCVT ink deal to expand broadband

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Maple Broadband and WCVT ink deal to expand broadband

Thu, 08/26/2021 - 11:09am -- tim
Agreement Sets the Stage for Fiber Optic Build Out to Unserved and Underserved Addison County Communities

Vermont Business Magazine Today, two organizations that exist to serve Addison County residents joined forces, with the shared goal of delivering fiber optic broadband internet access to every address in Maple Broadband’s member towns. Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom offers its extensive technical and management experience to the effort. The contract is for 10 years with two, 10-year options. Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

Maple Broadband is one of the state’s relatively new Communications Union Districts.

The governor signed a bill earlier this year that allocates $150 million and a new government entity to expand broadband, especially in outlying areas.

The money will be employed by Vermont’s communications union districts (community owned fiber-optic networks) that serve multiple towns in regions of the state that need better internet services. The pandemic proved the value and necessity of remote learning, work and commerce.

Funds needed to pay for the fiber network will come from those funds plus other grants and loans.

Because of Maple Broadband’s structure as a tax-free municipal entity, it will ultimately be able to secure funding from the municipal bond market at attractive interest rates.

“This was a critical foundational move for Maple Broadband.” said Steve Huffaker, Maple Broadband’s Chair. “A first step in deploying our fiber network was to identify a qualified organization to manage and deliver services over the network.”

“When seeking an agreement with a potential term of 30 years, proper alignment of goals was critical to identifying the right partner. We found a perfect match in Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT); a local Vermont telecommunications operator that has extensive experience in building and operating a rural broadband network.”

“Even before this Network Management Agreement was signed, WCVT has been an invaluable resource in support of Maple Broadband’s efforts. Through our collaboration, we will be able to leverage the deep well of experience and the many operational assets that WCVT already has in place,” said Huffaker.

This project will extend a fiber-to-the-home network capable of delivering high-speed broadband service to unserved and underserved addresses that are among some of the hardest to reach and hardest to serve in the state of Vermont.

According to Eric Haskin, President and CEO of Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom, “We are very pleased to be working with Maple Broadband to continue to expand fiber-optic connectivity to Addison County communities. This partnership will go a long way toward making next generation, high-speed Internet services available to many communities that don’t have access to adequate service today.”

As a precursor to network construction, Maple Broadband is engaged in pre-construction. It is presently conducting a high-level network design, pole surveys, and detailed network design while working through the state and federal grant processes. For more information about the timeline and progress, visit www.maplebroadband.net.

About Maple Broadband: Maple Broadband began operation in October 2020 under the name of Addison County Communications Union District. It spent the balance of 2020 developing operational structures and procedures and supporting the state’s work to help its citizens cope with the telecommunications challenges related to COVID-19. In February 2021, its website, and the name “Maple Broadband” was launched.

Maple Broadband is one of nine tax-exempt Communications Union Districts (CUDS) serving the state of Vermont.

CUDs are non-profit, municipal entities formed with the single goal of delivering high-speed fiber broadband service to every unserved and underserved address in their member towns.

CUDs cannot tax their member towns or the residents of those towns. A CUD must fund its operations by grants, debt, and donations.

To date Maple Broadband has identified and engaged a network engineering firm that is currently creating a network design that will serve as the basis for the ensuing network build. After pre-construction steps are complete, network construction can begin. At Maple Broadband’s current pace, construction may begin as early as 2022.

About Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom:

Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom is a third generation, family-owned telephone company serving the Mad River and central Champlain Valley regions of Vermont and has been providing telephone service to the Mad River Valley since 1904.

As a locally owned Vermont company, WCVT is committed to its local communities, and recognizes the extreme value in deploying the most advanced communications services to ensure its rural communities are connected to their urban counterparts with similar quality service.

WCVT makes significant capital investment in its network on an annual basis, continuing its network evolution in bringing higher broadband speeds and greater reliability to a larger number of our extremely rural and high-cost locations in our service area.

As a 117-year-old, family owned, local Vermont Company, WCVT is uniquely positioned to bring a 100% gigabyte capable fiber-optic network to Vermont’s rural communities.

Maple Broadband – Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom Key Facts

Maple Broadband Member Communities:

Addison, Bridport, Bristol, Cornwall, Ferrisburgh, Leicester, Lincoln, Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven, Orwell, Panton, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham, Starksboro, Vergennes, Waltham, Weybridge, Whiting

Goal

With our partner, Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT), deliver fiber-optic broadband service to 100% of Maple Broadband’s member towns.

The Agreement

Maple Broadband’s Role

• Finance, engineer, construct and own a Fiber-to-the-Premises network in its member towns outside of WCVT’s regulated territory

• Determine location, timing, and scope of construction

• Set rates and terms and conditions for retail services and wholesale users

• Prepare operating and capital budgets

WCVT’s Role

Two roles:

Network Manager, acting on behalf of Maple Broadband

• Maintain and repair the network

• Connect the network to retail and business customers

• Offer and provide use of the network to wholesale users

Designated Service Provider, acting on behalf of Maple Broadband

• Deliver high-speed internet, voice, and other retail services to customers on the network

• Install, monitor, and maintain all equipment within customer premises

• Responsible for all aspects of the customer relationship:

o Customer support

o Billing and collection

Agreement Term

The initial term is 10 years, with the option of two additional 10-year terms

Pace of Network Construction

WCVT must connect to unserved and underserved locations inside its territory at a rate no less than 90% of Maple Broadband’s connection rate to the unserved and underserved locations outside of WCVT’s territory.

Next Steps

Pre-Construction Work

Pre-construction is a costly but necessary precursor to the actual construction of the network. It involves four key steps, each of which is performed in sequence by Maple Broadband’s network engineering firm:

1) Perform a High-level Network Design, currently in process

2) Conduct a Utility Pole Survey, documenting in detail every utility pole that may be involved in the construction of Maple Broadband’s fiber network

3) Create a Detailed Network Design, which involves refining the high-level network design to reflect existing conditions identified during the Utility Pole Survey, and creating construction bid documents

4) Perform Pole Make-Ready work in coordination with utility pole owners to make space on utility poles for Maple Broadband’s fiber cable that will be attached to the poles

More

Maple Broadband is just getting started with many aspects of delivering broadband service to our Addison County member towns. To stay informed about our progress, fill out this form.

Or, to learn more, go to our website, www.maplebroadband.net.

Source: Addison County, Vermont August 26, 2021. WCVT www.wcvt.com. Maple Broadband. www.maplebroadband.net