ECFiber’s Mobile Mapping Unit in action. Courtesy photo.
by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Community Broadband Board at the end of August submitted Vermont’s FIve-Year Action Plan to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. It’s the first of several documents that need to be approved to unlock $229 million from the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, known as BEAD, for the state’s broadband buildout.
This funding is not a done deal, however, given federal requirements. The broadband board is also asking for public comment on how that money will be spent, assuming the state gets it.
“This is a significant step toward getting the funds necessary to accelerate the construction that’s bringing universal broadband to the state and our work to bridge the digital divide,” said VCBB Executive Director Christine Hallquist. “We’re going to ensure that all Vermonters can get the most out of these critical investments, enabling them to take advantage of work, educational, health care and social opportunities, as well as bolstering public safety and promoting clean energy.”
The VCBB is under the auspices of the Vermont Department of Public Service (publicservice.vermont.gov) and oversees the Communication Union Districts, organizations of two or more towns that join as a municipal entity to build communication infrastructure.
CUDs generally serve rural areas of the state not served by traditional telecoms. Along with the telecoms, CUDs work to bring broadband internet via fiber optic lines to all parts of the state. There are 10 CUDs, and they cover most of the state.
The Public Service Department cited progress so far for the CUD networks:
Southern Vermont CUD in Bennington County is expected to have connected all but a dozen or so addresses by this fall.
ECFiber expects to connect everyone in its coverage area of the Upper Valley and central Vermont by 2025.
Lamoille FiberNet in Lamoille County and Otter Creek CUD in Rutland County are on track to be more than three-quarters of the way to completion by the end of next year.
NEK Broadband has secured additional federal funds through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Loan and Grant Program and is connecting hundreds of customers in the Northeast Kingdom.
Maple Broadband in Addison County, DVFiber in the Deerfield Valley and CVFiber in central Vermont are all in construction and have connected their first customers.
Northwest Fiberworx is expected to begin construction in several towns in Franklin, Grand Isle and Chittenden counties in spring 2024.
The traditional telecoms are also providing their own fiber options (Burlington Telecom, Comcast, Consolidated/Fidium, FirstLight, VTel, Waitsfield & Champlain Valley Telecom, etc).
Several private internet service providers, such as Consolidated and WCVT, have partnered with CUDs to extend broadband service in their areas. The CUDs contract out the construction and management of the network. They cannot raise taxes to fund the projects.
The cost of service is also becoming an issue. Seven Days reported last month that some rural customers are balking at the $50 to $80 per month cost for the lowest level of internet service. There are some subsidies available, but the cost of building out the networks in rural areas is also expensive and the CUDs are concerned that lowering the price will not make the networks viable.
Already, Gov. Scott and the Legislature have appropriated $245 million in broadband funding from the American Rescue Plan. If BEAD funds also come through, Vermont will have $474 million in public money in order to expand broadband.
The Five-Year Action Plan describes Vermont’s vision and strategy for using the BEAD program to achieve universal high-speed broadband access in the state. The vision is that all Vermonters have universal access to reliable, high-quality, affordable, fixed broadband at speeds of at least 100/100 megabits per second, and that all Vermonters and institutions have the tools and skills necessary to maximize its value.
Vermont’s goals for the BEAD funding include building out broadband to all unserved and underserved locations; ensuring sustainable, community-driven solutions; ensuring devices are affordable and advance digital equity; leading workforce development for broadband and the digital economy; and improving socio-economic conditions across Vermont.
The next documents that will be submitted for approval by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration are Volume One and Volume Two of Vermont’s BEAD Initial Proposal. Once all plans are approved and federal funding is unlocked, VCBB will begin awarding subgrants in 2024.
However, in early September Vermont ran into a technical problem with the BEAD program that could undermine how CUDs are financed.
The VCBB has joined a coalition of almost 300 broadband experts, internet service providers, community leaders, nonprofits, consumer advocates and business groups that have joined forces to highlight concerns about the BEAD program.
In a Sept. 6 letter to NTIA administrator Alan Davidson and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, the group warns that the program’s letter of credit requirement could block the vast majority of smaller operators, community-centered ISPs, and publicly owned networks, such as Vermont’s CUDs, from securing grants.
The result is that these ISPs, which are willing to serve small and rural communities, will be largely unable to secure funds.
By requiring awardees to post an irrevocable letter of credit equal to 25% of their grant award — which banks typically insist be collateralized with cash — recipients will “have to lock away vast sums of capital for the full duration of the build, likely several years,” reads the letter.
In addition to a separate minimum 25% match requirement, the letter of credit “establishes capital barriers too steep for all but the best-funded ISPs.”
This would result in more expensive access for Vermont’s rural residents.
Christine Hallquist, who was a signatory to the letter, said, “We want this to be a fair process that allows Vermont’s Communications Union Districts and other community-based providers, as well as private ISPs, to take part in this historic federal investment to serve the unserved and underserved, ensure affordability and bridge the digital divide.”
F.X. Flinn, governing board chair for Vermont CUD ECFiber and also signatory to the letter, said: “ECFiber currently has over $300,000 in capital tied up backing a letter of credit for our RDOF grant. That’s money we could be using to put up 10 miles of fiber or connect 200 homes. Worse, the federal government wouldn’t let us use our local bank because it wasn’t ‘safe’ enough — and we wound up going with one of the recommended ‘top’ banks, Silicon Valley Bank, whose implosion happened just when we needed to renew and increase the letter of credit.
“An enormous amount of legal expense; countless volunteer hours; staff distraction at our operating partner, GWI Vermont; and our local bank ensued. Along the way, I have learned that letters of credit are no longer a thing in domestic transactions. The NTIA needs to drop this old-fashioned approach to securing their interests.”
The Communications Workers of America; American Association for Public Broadband; American Library Association; Consumer Reports; Public Knowledge; Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition; and Connect Humanity have signed the letter, alongside a broad coalition of ISPs, local government officials, state broadband offices, rural associations, funders and digital equity advocates.
Together, they argue that “rather than demonstrating a provider’s ability to construct a broadband network and provide high-speed broadband services,” the letter of credit is a “measure of whether they can lock up valuable working capital.”
Moreover, they explain that the banking sector does not have the appetite to issue the $10 billion-plus in letters of credit that the scale of the program demands. Even if it did, “the capital needed to collateralize them means billions of dollars are sitting idle and not being used to buy equipment, lay fiber and train the next generation of broadband engineers.”
The group urges the NTIA to drop the letter of credit entirely. Short of that, the letter suggests alternatives that provide additional protection for taxpayer dollars while ensuring BEAD funding can go to the providers best able to deliver for American families.
Alternatives include performance bonds — a tool regularly used in infrastructure construction projects — and delayed reimbursements to “ensure proposals are viable and that applicants have the capacity to perform.”
Unlike letters of credit, issuers of performance bonds perform additional due diligence on applicants, providing another layer of qualification. Bond issuers have a financial incentive to ensure performance and project completion.
By late September, NTIA had indeed heard the complaints. Evan Feinman, the director of NTIA’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, said the agency was working on a solution to the credit issue.
“What we did not do was offer a menu of options to do (a third party financial analysis)," he said. “We are hard at work on that now. You’re going to hear more from us about the letter of credit requirement in the relatively near future.”
John Windhausen, executive director of the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition, added, “By effectively excluding thousands of small, nonprofit, and minority-owned broadband providers, the policy contradicts the statutory language in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that specifically calls for municipalities and other nonprofit entities to be eligible. Insisting on the letter of credit will reduce competition and jeopardizes the ability of anchor institutions to receive high-quality broadband.”
With 42 million Americans still without broadband access, BEAD’s success is critical to ensure the entire nation can participate in an increasingly digital society. The group argues, however, that without change, “the program will not achieve its objective of delivering internet for all.”
That federal funding is crucial to the progress of reaching all corners of Vermont, even if that does not include every last address.
“Ensuring access to broadband is incredibly important to our work to revitalize communities in every corner of Vermont,” Gov. Scott said. “This significant funding boost builds on the historic investments and progress we’ve made over the last three years, which is very good news. I appreciate the continued support from President Biden and Congress for broadband as a vital infrastructure investment.”
“This country once made a historic effort to bring electricity to rural America,” said U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. “Today, we must make every effort to do the same for broadband. In the year 2023, high-speed internet must be treated as the new electricity — a fundamental and essential public utility for every member of the community, no matter their income or geography. I look forward to seeing this historic investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which we passed in the Senate in August 2021, bring quality broadband to hard-to-reach pockets of Vermont that have gone without internet for too long.
“We have a real opportunity to transform rural America, in large part thanks to the Biden Administration’s commitment to rural broadband,” echoed U.S. Sen. Peter Welch. “This essential service, which is key to running a successful small business, connecting with family and getting medical care in small towns, is also key to revitalizing our rural communities. We cannot be left behind in the digital transformation, and this funding will ensure that isn’t the case. It was an honor to champion this critical program in the bipartisan infrastructure law last Congress, and it’s a great joy to see these resources — nearly $230 million — now come home to Vermont. I will continue to fight for the expeditious buildout of broadband here in Vermont and across America to get folks in rural communities connected.”
“We can’t connect our communities to the jobs, education, health care and other resources they need without equitable access to broadband,” said U.S. Rep. Becca Balint. “I’m grateful to the Biden administration’s historic investment to ensure every corner of Vermont is connected to affordable, reliable broadband.”
“The VCBB is extremely grateful for Vermont’s allocation. We’d like to thank President Biden and Vermont’s congressional delegation for these federal dollars. This is a huge step toward our goal of getting all Vermonters connected to broadband,” said Christine Hallquist, executive director of the Vermont Community Broadband Board.
“These federal funds will expand educational opportunities, grow our economy, and improve access to health care services for all Vermonters, regardless of where they live. This investment also ensures Vermont’s competitiveness as a prime relocation destination in the era of remote work. This is a significant milestone in Vermont’s ongoing efforts to bridge the digital divide and grow our economy,” said State Treasurer Mike Pieciak.
“This infusion of federal dollars for broadband investment in Vermont is historic in scale and monumental in what it promises for the future prosperity of our state” said June Tierney, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service. “This is the kind of beneficial transformation that is possible when clear-sighted executive and legislative leadership combine to help government help the people by empowering the tireless volunteers of Vermont’s communications union districts and the communities they represent. Today’s announced investment will pay dividends in Vermont for generations to come, thanks to the productive engagement of our tireless CUD volunteers, the partnership of the incumbent providers and the steadfast leadership of the Vermont Community Broadband Board. Universal broadband service for all Vermonters is the goal, and the funding announced today is a huge step forward in getting us there.”
Meanwhile, the VCBB has since released Vermont’s Draft BEAD Initial Proposal, Volume 2, and is soliciting public feedback.
This draft is the second part of the draft proposal to explain how the state will spend the $229 million federal allocation.
Volume 2 outlines the process Vermont will use to select the ISPs who will receive BEAD money to build out unserved and underserved addresses and details the requirements these providers must meet to be eligible for funding.
It is a key priority, and federal requirement, for VCBB to incorporate public feedback into the plans. Input was gathered through listening sessions VCBB held throughout the state, in-person and virtually, as well as through a public survey, emails, phone calls and letters.
“Public input is at the heart of making a plan that works for every Vermonter,” said VCBB’s Hallquist. “The more we know about your situation and hear your opinions, the more our broadband buildout and implementation plans will address what’s really needed to get the whole state connected and bridge the digital divide.”
Separately, because of the timing of matching grants and the scheduling of construction for the various CUD buildouts, Governor Scott took $20 million of broadband funds to support business recovery from the July floods. FEMA does not cover business losses.
The governor established the Business Emergency Gap Assistance Program (BEGAP), which issues grants to flood impacted businesses, nonprofits, and landlords. It was established in late July and expanded in September.
In response to a question from VermontBiz at a September press conference about the use broadband funds to support flood recovery and the idea of "robbing Peter to pay Paul" in order to fund it, Scott said:
"It wasn't rob Peter to pay Paul, it was borrow from Peter so that Paul can survive for another six months or so and put us on a better path. We arrived at that decision because it was money that was sitting there. There was match money where they (CUDs) didn't get the grant that they were hoping to get. So this 20 million won't be used for another, I think it's in 2024. So it'd just be sitting there. It was just this cash reserve that we knew that we could get to quick. There is no danger from my perspective of not fulfilling our promise to backfill that. So I don't think anyone has anything to worry about. We do have money coming in. We have a surplus in some respects that we will make sure that's dedicated right up front to backfill that. So there shouldn't be any concern."
The Vermont Community Foundation and local groups have received several million dollars in donations to support business recovery, on top of the $20 million in BEGAP funding that the governor mentioned.
VCBB Awards Almost $60 Million in Grants to Fund Vermont's Broadband Buildout
The Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) awarded $58.9 million in grants to Vermont’s Communications Union Districts (CUDs) last summer. The construction grants were approved to expand broadband in five different CUDs across the state, bringing broadband to at least 13,000 currently underserved homes and businesses.
“Continuing our progress to build out high speed broadband remains a top priority in Vermont,” said Governor Phil Scott. “Closing the digital divide is key to growing our rural economy and taking full advantage of the modern marketplace. I want to thank the VCBB and their partners for their ongoing work.”
“Getting connected to high-speed broadband is key to supporting the growth and development of rural communities – it’s a necessity of today’s digital economy, not a luxury. I’m thankful for the work the Vermont Community Broadband Board is doing to support broadband buildout in rural Vermont and will continue to fight for more funding to expand these grants in our state and across America,” said Sen. Peter Welch.
“Narrowing the digital divide takes significant investment, especially in our most rural communities. Without reliable broadband access, communities are left without access to jobs, education, health care, and so much more. Grants like these ensure no Vermonter gets left behind by providing high speed internet access to all,” said Congresswoman Becca Balint.
Recent grants include a $13.59 million grant to Lamoille FiberNet.
“Approval of our grant means that by the end of 2024, almost all the unserved or underserved homes and businesses in our CUD will have access to super-fast fiber,” said Jeff Tilton, Waterville resident and chair of Lamoille FiberNet CUD. “We are grateful the VCBB appreciated the merits of our plan, and we are very excited to start building. We chose Fidium Fiber because it is the best option in terms of affordability and sustainability, and Fidium committed to bringing fiber to our communities much sooner and with less cost than the other options we explored.”
“I've long supported funding for Broadband in the Legislature. It's great to see that money now going out to underserved rural areas in grants like this. Broadband has become critical to the economic and social well-being of everyone,” said Sen. Richard Westman, Lamoille County.
Also this month VCBB approved a $9.95 million grant to Otter Creek. “This grant will enable over 2000 previously underserved locations to have access to high-speed fiber broadband service by the end of 2024. Otter Creek’s partnership with Fidum Fiber ensures that materials and labor are readily available for our project which translates to swift construction of the fiber network in the Rutland County area. We are thrilled that our constituents will soon have access to some of the lowest cost high-speed internet services in Vermont,” said Laura Black, Otter Creek CUD Governing Board Chair.
ECFiber was awarded a $13.23 million grant in August. “ECFiber looks forward to spending this money as quickly as possible and getting our 1 Gig service to folks in the northern part of our district, the same way thousands of Vermonters have been enjoying our 1 Gig service for more than a year. We hope to win additional ARPA-backed grants from the VCBB as more of that money becomes available,” said F.X. Flinn, ECFiber Governing Board Chair.
In July VCBB approved $17.94 in additional funds to NEK Broadband and $2.16 million in additional funds to Maple Broadband. “We are now up to eight out of ten CUDs that are in construction. That, along with our work in digital equity, is fast-tracking our progress toward getting all Vermonters connected and bridging the digital divide,” said VCBB Executive Director Christine Hallquist.
Act 71 established the Broadband Construction Grant Program in 2021 to provide grants to finance the broadband projects of eligible providers that are part of a Universal Service Plan. A Universal Service Plan is a plan for providing each on-grid unserved and underserved location in a Communications Union District or in a municipality that is not part of a Communications Union District, access to broadband service capable of speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload. Funding for the grants comes from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to cover construction costs (materials, equipment, labor) related to broadband projects.
More information is available at Act 71 Broadband Construction Grant Program | Department of Public Service (vermont.gov).
Lamoille FiberNet Construction Grant
The VCBB approved Lamoille FiberNet Communications Union District’s (Lamoille FiberNet www.lamoillefiber.net) $13,588,636 construction grant application at the VCBB’s September 11 meeting.
“This grant means that, by the end of 2024, we can bring high-speed internet to almost all the homes and businesses in our CUD that are unserved or underserved,” said Jeff Tilton, Waterville resident and chair of Lamoille FiberNet Communications Union District (CUD). “We are grateful that the VCBB appreciated the merits of our plan, and we are very excited to start building. This plan came about after we explored several models, and we chose Fidium Fiber and Consolidated to build, operate and maintain the fiber network because it is the best option in terms of affordability and sustainability, and it also brings high-speed fiber internet to our communities significantly faster and with less costs than other models.”
The construction grant will fund broadband for approximately 4,800 unserved and underserved Lamoille County homes and businesses, and the 630-mile network will be built in two phases. Phase 1 represents 550 miles — connecting 4,170 addresses — and is scheduled to be completed in 2024. Phase 1 will connect all unserved and underserved addresses in Belvidere, Eden, Johnson, Hyde Park, Morristown, Waterville, the Lamoille FiberNet portions of Elmore and Wolcott, and significant portions of Stowe and Cambridge.
Phase 2, which is the remaining portions of Stowe and Cambridge, is planned for 2025 and will require additional, but substantially less funding. Detailed design and town-by-town construction plans for Phase 1 will be developed later this fall.
“With this partnership, Fidium will invest almost $10 million to supplement the Lamoille FiberNet grants,” Lisa Birmingham, Lamoille FiberNet’s interim executive director, noted. “Having Fidium’s investment means that our CUD won’t need revenue bond financing, which reduces our financial risks and helps lower costs for our constituents.”
“Affordability is a key reason Fidium was chosen to serve Lamoille FiberNet CUD. Their prices are significantly lower than most providers and they offer the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) for qualifying households,” said Lisa Birmingham. “Fidium has also committed to using the same pricing and offering the same services to Lamoille FiberNet customers as it offers customers throughout Vermont and northern New England.
Birmingham noted that “this partnership also includes multiple performance and customer service commitments, including an extensive installation policy which will substantially reduce and in many cases eliminate out-of-pocket installation costs for consumers. Customers in towns that have pledged local ARPA funds to Lamoille FiberNet may get financial assistance on installations as well.”
“Our board and staff have put in thousands of hours of work to reach this milestone,” Tilton noted, “and we are eager to finally bring high-speed fiber internet to support our region’s economic development, education, telehealth and other broadband needs.”
For more information about Lamoille FiberNet, visit www.lamoillefiber.net.
CUD Northwest Fiberworx Reaches Deal with GWI VT
The Northwest Vermont Communications Union District, d/b/a Northwest Fiberworx (NWFX nwfiberworx.com) based in Saint Albans, Vermont, has signed an agreement with the Biddeford Internet Corporation, d/b/a Great Works Internet Vermont (GWI VT) located in South Royalton, Vermont paving the way for 30,000 locations over 22 Northwestern Vermont communities to access a robust, reliable, and affordable fiber internet network.
Under the agreement, NWFX will construct, own, maintain, and operate an “open access” fiber-optic cable network and associated equipment and facilities. GWI VT will license the network from NWFX. In addition, GWI VT will complete the design and manage the installation and subsequent operation of the network on behalf of NWFX.
The network construction will be completed by a third-party installer engaged separately by NWFX with project management by GWI VT.
“This is a major step forward toward our goal of bringing broadband to all Vermonters. Congratulations to everyone at Northwest Fiberworx and the CUD’s residents who will soon be able to realize the economic, social, health, and many other benefits broadband offers,” said Hallquist.
Formed in 2020, NWFX staff, Governing Board (town/village representatives), the VCBB, and select specialized consultants have worked continuously to assemble the many moving parts required to realize our community-owned fiber optic network that prioritizes the unserved in our region. Some of these steps included feasibility studies, accessing and securing funds, high-level network design, procuring equipment and materials, budgeting, scheduling, contracting an ISP partner, and related administrative work to ensure things are done right.
“We are excited to have achieved this milestone for our CUD. The staff and the board worked tirelessly to ensure we selected a partner aligned with our mission and values. GWI understands what is important to us and the communities we represent. We look forward to forging a long relationship as we collaboratively work to build a network and provide universal and affordable service,” says Sean Kio, NWFX Executive Director.
GWI VT is a wholly owned subsidiary of GWI. GWI is a benefit corporation and was the nation’s first B Corporation Certified broadband carrier. GWI is no stranger to Vermont and the CUD concept, having recently formed GWI Vermont to manage all operating responsibilities of Valley Net — the former ISP founded in Vermont as a non-profit in 1994 and operator of ECFiber since 2008.
GWI is also assisting DVFiber with the construction and operation of their network.
“Our commitment to Vermont and our project with NWFX goes far beyond providing better internet for folks’ homes and businesses. Once complete, this next-gen infrastructure will significantly impact the region’s opportunities for economic development, telecommuting and remote work, healthcare, education, agriculture, and public safety,” says Kerem Durdag, GWI VT’s President and COO.
CVFiber Connects First Customer
CVFiber has connected its first customers to high-speed, fiber-optic Internet. CVFiber leadership, state, and local officials joined in a ribbon cutting today in Calais celebrating the communications union district’s (CUD’s) first connected customers.
“We are enthusiastic about our progress as we bring high-speed Internet to central Vermont communities. The progress that we have made and the impact that we’ve been able to achieve to date could not have been accomplished without the unwavering commitment from our partners. We are optimistic as we expand to other service areas. We encourage our neighbors to check availability on our website, cvfiber.net, to see if their address is eligible for our locally managed, world-class Internet service," said CVFiber Executive Director Jennille Smith.
Additional customers in Calais will be connected next, followed by parts of Worcester and East Montpelier. Construction will continue throughout 2023, and more customers will be connected in 2024.
With a growing need from underserved homes, or homes that have limited, unreliable, or costly access with other providers, CVFiber’s service is surpassing customer expectations. Early customer reviews indicate high speeds, flexibility, and excellent customer service, all at a fair and reasonable price.
Behind-the-scenes operational planning and construction is happening now in the rest of the CUD to get all towns in the district ready to be connected. That includes network design, permitting and licensing, hanging strand and aerial fiber, installing underground conduit, along with splicing and testing to ensure connectivity.
About CVFiber: As a community-owned and operated Internet service provider, CVFiber is serving its 20 Central Vermont communities with a unified goal to provide fast, reliable, and world-class Internet to every Vermonter within its member towns. In partnership with Waitsfield & Champlain Valley Telecom, which operates the network and interacts with its customers, CVFiber is equipped to meet the growing needs of Vermonters as it expands into new district zones. Twenty communities are a part of the CVFiber district: Barre City, Barre Town, Berlin, Cabot, Calais, Duxbury, East Montpelier, Middlesex, Marshfield, Montpelier, Moretown, Northfield, Orange, Plainfield, Roxbury, Washington, Waterbury, Williamstown, Woodbury, and Worcester. Learn more at CVFiber’s website.
Otter Creek CUD Wins Nearly $10 Million to Expand Fiber Internet in Rutland Region
Through partnership with Consolidated Communications, 4,100 more homes and businesses in the region will have access to multi-gig fiber internet
Vermont Business Magazine Otter Creek Communications Union District (CUD) was awarded a $9.9 million grant from the Vermont Community Broadband Board. The grant will help fund construction of a multi-gigabit fiber network through a partnership with Consolidated Communications. When complete, more than 4,100 homes and businesses will have access to fiber internet by 2025.
“We’re excited to work collaboratively with Consolidated to bring future-proof internet to the 18 communities within our CUD,” said Laura Black, chair of Otter Creek CUD. “This funding will put us well on our way to meeting the goal of universal service in the Rutland region, bringing all the opportunities that come with reliable, high-speed internet. The Otter Creek CUD board is proud to be on the way to bringing the broadband infrastructure this community needs to participate in the global economy.”
The grant, along with a significant investment from Consolidated, will bring fiber-to-the-premise to 85% of homes and businesses in the Otter Creek CUD area. This includes more than 2,300 homes that are currently unserved by any broadband solution. Consolidated and Otter Creek CUD will continue to seek funding opportunities to deliver broadband to the remaining CUD area not included in this phase of the partnership.
“We are thrilled to work with Otter Creek CUD and bring Fidium fiber to even more Vermont communities,” said Sarah Davis, vice president of Government Affairs for Consolidated. “We’ve seen firsthand how better internet brings new opportunities to small towns. We are all excited for the residents of Otter Creek CUD to benefit from new economic, employment, educational, health and entertainment benefits that accompany fiber internet.”
Consolidated recently completed construction of the fiber network that made the Southern Vermont CUD the first in the state to reach universal service. The Company has also built fiber to more than 110,000 Vermont homes and businesses since 2021.
Otter Creek CUD is a public entity (municipality) formed of multiple towns and one city in the Rutland Region of Vermont. The member municipalities consist of Benson, Brandon, Castleton, Chittenden, Fair Haven, Goshen, Hubbardton, Mendon, Pawlet, Pittsford, Poultney, Rutland Town, Rutland City, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, Wells, West Haven, and West Rutland.
Otter Creek CUD is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit municipal corporation whose mission is to bring access to high-speed affordable broadband to the constituents of the CUD.
Consolidated Communications Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: CNSL) is dedicated to moving people, businesses and communities forward by delivering the most reliable fiber communications solutions. Consumers, businesses and wireless and wireline carriers depend on Consolidated for a wide range of high-speed internet, data, phone, security, cloud and wholesale carrier solutions. With a network spanning more than 59,000 fiber route miles, Consolidated is a top 10 U.S. fiber provider.
NEK Broadband Offers Fiber-Based High-Speed Internet to Waterford Area
Vermont Business Magazine NEK Broadband announced today that it has added new addresses in Waterford to its fiber network, delivering on its promise to bring high-speed internet to underserved communities in the Northeast Kingdom. The Waterford network has been funded by a combination of federal grants through the Vermont Community Broadband Board and the town’s contribution of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
High-speed internet via NEK Broadband is now available in some areas of Waterford that previously did not have access to cable internet service.
“It’s so gratifying to see continued demonstrable progress in bringing internet service to the Kingdom as we reach our current total of over 1,000 addresses passed by our active fiber network,” said Christa Shute, Executive Director of NEK Broadband. “Waterford made an early and substantial ARPA commitment to expand service. Between now and the end of the year we will be providing new service to addresses in ten additional towns, and of course expansion doesn’t stop there.”
The VCBB issued a press release on September 28th announcing an additional construction grant award to NEK Broadband of $17.94 million bringing the total construction grant funds from the VCBB to the district to $38.9 million. The recent grant awards will expand the construction grant area from portions of 16 towns to portions of 35 towns.
“NEK Broadband’s progress is one more step forward to providing digital equity for Vermonters so they can live, work, and learn using the high-speed connection that is necessary for their success,” said Christine Hallquist, Executive Director of the Vermont Community Broadband Board.
Michael Barrett, the NEK Broadband board member representing Waterford, added, “Waterford’s investment of ARPA dollars in this project is bearing fruit for our citizens. It’s so satisfying to finally see a vision for high-speed internet in Waterford become a reality.” People in NEK Broadband’s service area who would like to keep track of when service will be available at their home can sign up for updates at https://get.nekbroadband.org/.
NEK Broadband is a Communications Union District (CUD) representing every town in Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans counties, plus Wolcott in Lamoille County. We are a community-driven organization building public infrastructure to help ensure that every address that has existing electric utility service will have access to high-speed broadband service. As a municipality, we are a non-profit, so revenue from customers will go towards building and repairing infrastructure and increasing affordability for our residents.
VCBB Chosen as Finalist for US Broadband Award
VCBB has been named a finalist for the first ever US Broadband Awards in the category of Innovation in State Broadband Deployment. The awards honor and celebrate the best solutions, programs, use cases, technology, and individuals working to connect everyone across the United States through broadband.
VCBB’s entry is based on Vermont’s Communications Union Districts (CUD) model that’s made up of hundreds of volunteers from across the state who formed CUDs and have been working ever since toward one goal, universal broadband service for everyone in Vermont. Each CUD is committed to universal service, affordability, and public accountability, while being locally tailored and reflecting the will of its region and member towns.
For people living in rural Vermont who had insufficient or no service, many now have (or are in the process of getting) world class fiber optic broadband. This is a lifeline for the local community. Towns are being revitalized as broadband makes a whole new kind of economic development possible, people are relocating to rural areas because they can work remotely, and residents can finally participate in this essential service, enabling them to take advantage of career, educational, healthcare, and social opportunities.
“We’re very proud of the unique CUD model that was created in our state. This work reflects the true spirit of Vermont, people working together to solve a common problem. We are honored to represent the hardworking leaders and volunteers of Vermont’s CUDs and to be recognized as a finalist with two other broadband industry leaders,” said VCBB Executive Director Christine Hallquist.
The list of U.S. Broadband Award finalists is available here. The winners will be announced on the evening of November 16 at the U.S. Broadband Summit in Washington, D.C.