Welch hails broadband expansion with ECFiber
Roused by a 30-piece band swelling the room with marching tunes, a parade of town leaders, civic-minded celebrants and a U.S. senator marked what was described as a historic moment in connecting the Upper Valley with the wider world: plugging the “golden patch cord” into a telecommunications hub that will bring high-speed internet service to 3,500 addresses in Hartford.
“We’ve all waited patiently for this day,” trumpeted ECFiber Chairman F. X. Flinn, to whoops and applause from more than 200 people packed into the VFW Hall on Tuesday, hailing ECFiber’s fiber-optic network that has been nearly two decades in the making as “world-class broadband right here in the Brooklyn of Vermont, White River Junction.”
The event, which was moved from the parking lot where it was to take place on a stage decked out in bunting to inside the VFW Hall due to the threat of rain, was staged to celebrate the near completion — there still remain some miles of fiber-optic lines to string in sections of Hartford — represented by “lighting” the last hub in the 23-town consortium that’s been working since 2007 to bring internet service to rural Vermonters.
ECFiber’s story has been through many chapters during its history: the initial 500 investors who kicked in $7.5 million in seed capital; nearly stopping dead in its tracks when a plan to raise financing was torpedoed in the 2007-2009 recession; aligning with ValleyNet; being turned down for federal grant funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009; and successively turning to the municipal bond markets to tap $64 million in financing.
Finally, earlier this year, after building 1,800 miles of fiber-optic network and reaching 24,000 homes, ECFiber entered into an operating agreement with GWI, a Maine telecommunications operator. Eight more Upper Valley towns on top of the current 23 have voted to join ECFiber, potentially adding thousands more subscribers to its current 8,000-strong residential customer base.
Read the full story at VTDigger