ValleyNet Transfers Operating Responsibilities of ECFiber to GWI Vermont
ValleyNet, a VTTA member, announced that it has transferred all of its staff and operating responsibilities to GWI Vermont in an undertaking that was years in the making.
The recently formed GWI Vermont is a subsidiary of Biddeford Internet Corporation, d.b.a GWI. GWI, based out of Biddeford, Maine, founded in 1994, is a benefit corporation and was the nation’s first B Corporation Certified broadband carrier. ValleyNet is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) founded in Vermont as a non-profit in 1994 and has operated ECFiber since 2008. In 2020, ValleyNet expanded fiber operations in Lyme, New Hampshire, in partnership with LymeFiber. ECFiber created the blueprint for Vermont’s communication union districts (CUDs), which are now the centerpiece of the state’s strategy for solving the rural broadband crisis. GWI Vermont will continue to maintain and build upon the standards for this model with the transfer of operations.
The GWI/ValleyNet partnership originally began in 2020 when GWI became the chosen ValleyNet phone provider. This partnership deepened in June of 2022 when Valleynet announced a restructuring of its management, design, build, and operating services in an expanded partnership with GWI. Moving forward, GWI and subsequently GWI Vermont’s tenured knowledge and dedication to operations and support will continue to grow and improve all facets of the ECFiber customer experience. “Having been involved in building ECFiber through ValleyNet since 2007, ECFiber is very important to me and I am pleased that we have found an operator like GWI that shares our dedication to public service to carry on ValleyNet’s work with ECFiber,” stated Stan Williams, co-founder of ECFiber, ValleyNet CFO and former ValleyNet board chair.
GWI Vermont, located in Royalton, Vermont, is focused on building and upgrading ECFiber’s network with continued emphasis on resiliency, reliability, and growing the relationships within the Vermont communities they serve. Similar to its parent company, it is native to GWI Vermont’s DNA that world-class broadband is a crucial component to the broader local economy and the livelihoods of the customers they serve. Having access to reliable high-speed internet is a requirement for communities to retain and attract population, drive economic development, and spur innovation. Tom Cecere, General Manager of GWI Vermont, said “The partnership with GWI is the best way for us to further our joint mission of bringing future-proof fiber to all the homes and businesses on the grid in ECFiber’s service area. As we’ve grown to support over 8,000 customers we have learned so much. As internet has become a requirement rather than a “nice to have” we need to bring expertise to the table about network reliability – which is the hallmark of GWI.”
All of ValleyNet’s former employees have accepted the same positions with GWI Vermont and all of ECFiber’s and LymeFiber’s customers will continue to be serviced out of the Royalton, VT office. “ValleyNet is proud of the homegrown workforce we have developed in Royalton. In particular, I would note the extraordinary contributions of our longest-tenured employees. In order to bootstrap ECFiber to a financial position where it could issue municipal revenue bonds in 2016, ValleyNet operated on an extremely tight budget which included salaries and benefits well below industry norms,” noted Williams. “We are proud to continue our relationship with ECFiber’s and LymeFiber’s customer base,” continued Cecere, “since our people have built this network and will now continue to operate it going forward.” He added, “It is important to us that GWI Vermont is based locally and that the same people who’ve done such a great job so far will continue to support and complete the network going forward.”
“The ECFiber/ValleyNet partnership was extraordinarily effective.” said Fletcher Kittredge, “It took years of hard work by the volunteers at ValleyNet to bootstrap not only a fiber network serving 31 towns, but the CUD model for all Vermont and with national implications. We are honored to be trusted with ValleyNet’s responsibilities and will work hard to validate that trust.”
ECFiber is the trade name of the business which provides internet services to the member towns and border areas of the East Central Vermont Telecommunications District, Vermont’s first CUD. As a municipality, the District has funded the construction of the network by issuing $63.5 million worth of municipal revenue bonds since its inception in 2015, and has received about $3 million in grants or in-kind from federal and state sources since construction began in 2011 under an interlocal contract among 24 towns. Ownership of the business known as ECFiber is the District’s principal responsibility; under the terms of the operating agreement, the day to day decision making is GWI’s responsibility.