East Central Vermont Fiber Network

Last night, at the request of the Town Manager and Bethel Selectboard, I attended a closed presentation on the East Central Vermont Fiber Network. In a nutshell, they are proposing to build on the community-owned fiber-optic network built by Burlington Telecom in the Burlington, Vermont area, to bring fiber to every house in 14 towns in east central Vermont.

Some notable points from the presentation:

  • The US is behind the rest of the world in terms of broadband access
    • The Upper Valley is behind the rest of the US
      • The east central portion of the state is behind the Upper Valley.
  • The fiber network would be used to provide telephone, television, and Internet access to every home that “currently has a [phone or electric] pole to it.”
  • The network would be a community-owned, not-for-profit entity. Without the profit motive, rates can be substantially lower.
  • They require an average of 12 houses per mile to make it cost-effective. Since Bethel has an average of 11.8 houses per mile, we would bump the average up.
  • The plan is that this would be a capital lease by each town, and by state law it would not be considered a debt owed by the town.
  • The packages are very competitively priced. For example, a basic rate service might include 1Mb up/down Internet access, $0.02/min local calling, $0.05/min long distance, and 20 television channels, for around $50/month.
  • The up-front cost to towns is nominal, basically some legal fees. The infrastructure is being built out by private investors.
  • They claim they will have a better acceptable use policy than, say, those of Comcast and Verizon. This would be the advantage of a community-owned network.
  • The stability and reliability of fiber-optics is significantly better than that of copper networks, which require repeaters at regular intervals and have significant range restrictions.
  • They plan to open up the service to anyone, and would have business packages available.
  • The network would use Burlington Telecom’s existing technical support and billing/customer service infrastructure.

This sounds like a fantastic idea. The downsides are small, and the advantages are numerous. Fiber optics to every home. This is this century’s “power and phone to every home.”

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