Last year, we reported that ECFiber was in the process of connecting rural Vermont, with a focus on connecting those who had no access to broadband. In addition to large investments from a limited number of investors, local citizens began lending funds to expand the network.
In a recent open letter to the Governor, published in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus, Laura Zantzinger from Barnard describes how ECFiber touches her household. Zantzinger’s home tech company can now expand because she has the capacity she needs from ECFiber. Zantzinger also discusses how fiber access helps her son academically:
My son attends an online high school in a program offered through one of the top universities in the country. He attends video conference classes, lectures, meetings, and myriad other communications online to California, and places all over the globe.
Two years ago, we moved out of state, renting a house elsewhere to get the Internet, because my son was not able to participate in class. His grades suffered because of it. Last year, we rented an office in another town where Internet was available.
Zantzinger describes two growing trends – home based businesses and distance learning – that require access to broadband. Zantzinger shares strong words of praise for ECFiber’s mission, experienced by her first hand:
ECFiber’s approach has been open and community-oriented. They just want to get it built, pay it off, and hand it over to the towns. They are willing to make things work, even if it is hard, if it means they can serve the customer. Their priorities as expressed in the meetings were amazing to me.
According to the ECFiber blog, funding is moving forward to bring the network to neaby Woodstock. From the blog:
As previously announced, local supporters of the effort to build a fiber-optic hub inside the Woodstock library have agreed to match any similar pledge dollar-for-dollar up to $100,000. This means that, so far, the Woodstock community has advanced $15,000 toward the ultimate goal of raising $400,000. The capital needed in Woodstock will pay to hang fiber-optic cable from the nearest ECFiber hub in Barnard, down Route 12 to Woodstock, and to construct a similar hub inside the library.
Once the library is connected, ECFiber hopes to extend to downtown businesses and the Woodstock Elementary School. The Woodstock capital campaign ends on December 3rd.
A new partnership for ECFiber will allow the network to expand via the proposed Vermont Telecommunictions Authority (VTA) Connector network as a backbone between the towns of Chelsea, Thetford, Strafford, and Sharon, all in Orange and Northern Windsor Counties. The Herald of Randolph reports on the story and notes:
The VTA connector can enable ECFiber to reach “several hundred new civic, business, and residential customers,” according to Irv Thomae, vice chair of the ECFiber governing board.
“Cheese-makers and software developers alike need last-mile broadband to reach twenty-first century markets,” he remarked.
ECFiber has already raised $1.3 million from local investors this year to support fiber optic technology in their towns, and the agreement to use VTA’s “backbone” will make those funds go farther, Thomae said.
ECFiber continues to be an exciting model for a self-funded, next-generation network connecting those who have been largely left behind by state and federal policies that are more concerned with doling out subsidies to large, absentee companies building obsolete networks.