Northwestern Vermont Towns Make a Deal for Broadband
Northwest Fiberworx, the communications union district for 22 northwestern Vermont communities serving 30,000 customers, has signed a deal for fiber-optic broadband with South Royalton-based Great Works Internet Vermont.
“It’s a big deal,” said Robert Fish, deputy director of the Vermont Community Broadband Board, pointing out that Northwest Fiberworx is the last of the original communications union districts to sign a deal with an internet service provider.
The Vermont Community Broadband Board plans to provide funding with money from the federal American Rescue Plan of 2021 and with new funds from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program, part of the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal of 2021.
The deal is a reboot of sorts for Northwest Fiberworx, which partnered with Google Fiber to cover northwestern Vermont until that deal fell through because a partner communications union district, Lamoille FiberNet, did not meet Google’s financial requirements. Alone, Northwest Fiberworx did not have enough addresses to make the deal worth Google Fiber’s while, according to Sean Kio, executive director of Northwest Fiberworx.
“We had a very committed board and staff who really tried to push forward and really seek a quality solution that, ideally, is going to bring universal service and some affordability to a district that greatly needs it,” Kio said.
Prices and speeds for the service are still to be determined, he said.
Kio said Northwest Fiberworx, which covers communities in Franklin, Grand Isle and Chittenden counties, already has in its possession several hundred miles of fiber-optic cable ready for construction to begin early next year.
It plans to apply within the next two months to the Vermont Community Broadband Board to begin construction, he said. While he doesn’t yet know the total project cost, Kio anticipates that at some point, the communications union district would have to borrow money on the bond markets and through private loans to supplement the federal grants administered by the state broadband board.
Great Works Internet Vermont is the contractor for EC Fiber, the communications union district for 30 towns and 5,000 customers in the Upper Valley as well as for DV Fiber in the Deerfield Valley.