Proposed H. 513 aims to promote a grassroots approach to broadband similar to ECFiber
Many in the Upper Valley already know that community-owned ECFiber* is doing great things to provide high speed internet service to 24 towns in Vermont. Nonetheless, its nice when a national news provider such as U.S. News & World Report praises ECFiber as a “disruptor” in a March article.
The article, In Vermont, High-Speed Internet for All Gets More Likely by Hilary Niles, notes that states officials and business leaders thought that super high speed internet delivered by fiber-optic cable was "simply too expensive to contemplate for last-mile broadband coverage,” in rural areas. The term “last-mile” refers to the final (and most expensive) leg of a telecommunications network that physically reaches the home or business of the retail customer.
However, a growing number of community-owned broadband networks in the U.S. are challenging that assumption and proving it wrong. "In Vermont, the disruptor is ECFiber, a 24-town telecommunications district building fiber-to-the-premises to every unserved or underserved address in its territory.” The article quotes Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and policy director of Next Century Cities, saying "ECFiber is one of the best models we've seen in terms of many communities working together in relative harmony.”
A Bill proposed in Montpelier, H. 513, wants to promote a grassroots approach similar to ECFiber, by providing grants, loans and technical expertise. The Bill was drafted by the House Committee on Energy and Technology chaired by State Representative Tim Briglin, whose District includes Norwich, Sharon, Strafford, and Thetford. See also Briglin Named Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Technology. He talked about the Bill to VPR on March 12. The audio of the segment, Vermont Needs Broadband: Here's What It Would Take To Get It, is here, with his comments begin at about 22 minutes of the episode.
The East Central Vermont Telecommunications District (ECFiber) is a municipal body with 24 member towns in east-central Vermont. We have banded together to build a community-owned fiber-optic network. We have contracted with ValleyNet, a Vermont-based non-profit communications company, to design, build, and operate the network. Our goal? Delivering fast, reliable, and affordable Internet to every home, business, and civic institution in our territory.
Related Content: Irv Thomae is the Norwich Delegate to the ECFiber Governing Board. He was interviewed about ECFiber for Organizing for Fiber-Optic Broadband—and a Fully Connected Future—in Rural Vermont, an article appearing in January in the Slice of MIT blog.