In August, East Central Vermont Telecommunications District (ECFiber) released their 2018 construction plans to expand fiber optic network to the towns of Braintree, Brookfield, Granville, Hancock, Rochester, and Stockbridge in east-central Vermont.
According to Irv Thomae, the District Chairman:
“Our mission is to build and operate a universal, open access, fiber-to-the premises network, ensuring state-of-the art connectivity to every home, business and civic institution in all of our member towns. We are pleased that thanks to our recent financing we can at last provide near-universal coverage to six more towns.”
As of October, ECFiber has built over 420 miles of fiber optic cable and connected over 2,000 active customers in parts or all of their 24 member towns. They plan to complete another 170 miles of the network by the end of 2017 and another 250 miles in 2018. “We plan to continue this process of filling out towns until the entire District is covered,” says Thomae.
ECFiber is a consortium of 24 Vermont towns organized as a Communications Union District under Vermont law (30 V.S.A. § 3052). ValleyNet, a nonprofit organization based in Royalton, operates the community owned fiber optic network. The Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) infrastructure provides symmetrical speeds from 17 to 700 Megabits per second (Mbps) with no data caps. Top speeds will increase to gigabit connectivity later this year.
In the organization’s infancy, ECFiber submitted several funding proposals to obtain grants or loans under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), but the funds were awarded to other local incumbent providers. From that point on, ECFiber utilized an innovative self-financing model by issuing promissory notes in a private placement offering. After a few rounds of fundraising and outside investment, ECFiber went live in 2011. The network has been expanding, increasing in speed, and keeping rates in check ever since. Currently the District funds projects with revenue bonds; revenue from the existing customer base has been sufficient to cover all financing.
Incumbent provider FairPoint Communications, continues to overbuild DSL infrastructure in the same areas already served by ECFiber FTTH network.
In 2015, FairPoint Communications received federal funds from the Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II)program, almost $8.8 million per year for six years (totaling roughly $52.8 million) to provide DSL connectivity to over 28,000 homes and businesses in Vermont. The cost to deploy a DSL network in the areas served by ECFiber, costs approximately $1,860 per premise, which is comparable to ECFiber deployment costs per premise for fast, reliable, redundant fiber. The FTTH network supplied by ECFiber is also future-proof while the FairPoint DSL is already becoming outdated.
For more coverage on ECFiber, check out Christopher’s recent interview with Carole Monroe, CEO of ValleyNet, and Irv Thomae, District Chairmen of ECFiber Governing Board. They talk about the new District designation, plans to expand the network and recent developments surrounding overbuilding by DSL provider FairPoint. Go back further and listen to Carole Monroe discuss ECFiber self-financing model and how the network came into being. You can also check out our previous coverage of ECFiber.