Good news for Vermonters who want connectivity from the East Central Vermont Fiber Optic Network (ECFiber). The community owned network recently raised another $430,000 from local investors who purchased tax-exempt promissory notes. As a result, the nonprofit can now expand another 20 miles. Approximately 100 more households and businesses will soon have access.
Twenty-three towns belong to the consortium; Montpelier is the largest. The network currently serves 325 customers via 50 miles of fiber. Warren Johnston reports in the Valley News:
“Before the fall, we’ll have people connected in Chelsea, Vershire, Thetford, Tunbridge, Royalton and Sharon, and a lot of the people in Strafford, along with service to several neighborhoods in Norwich, [ECFiber Chariman Irv Thomas] said.
The nonprofit has raised about $3.5 million through grants and investment loans from community members.
Although residents wanting service are not required to loan money to ECFiber, the tax-free notes promise a good return for investors, ranging from 5.3 percent to 7.65 percent, depending on the type of note.
Johnston also spoke with Wynona Ward, an attorney with Have Justice Will Travel, a nonprofit legal service for victims of domestic violence and abuse in Vershire:
“It’s just wonderful. It’s like going from the horse-and-buggy age to the jet age overnight,” said Ward, who got the service on April 23. “I’ll always remember the date. It’s made such a difference in our lives.”
The new system lets all of the firm’s five computers to be online at one time, something that the old system would not allow. Clients and lawyers now can send photographs and case files to her office, which would have crashed her previous system.
“We used to plan an hour a week to do our payroll online. Now, we can do it in a matter of minutes. It’s a tremendous savings of time,” she said. The new system also gives firm members an opportunity to keep up with online training.
“If we filed a grant application before, which can be 70 to 80 pages, we had to go to Hanover to use the computers. Now, we can do it from our office. And now, we’re also going to use social media to raise money. We never could do that before.”
Johnston also spoke with local educators at The Mountain School:
“We welcome the change. We love the remote, rural lifestyle, but it will be nice to have a better connection to the world. We’ll be able to update our website without having to drive to Hanover to do it. The better connection will also help our students, who are from all over the country, and the faculty members who live on campus,” [Director Alan] Smith said.
We watched ECFiber grow from a community idea to a community reality and look forward to watching it expand further. Despite interruptions from FairPoint that influenced a federal grant award to a less viable project, this community continues to find a way to do it themselves. To find out more the birth of this local project, listen to our podcast interview with one of the community leaders, Leslie Nulty.