DVFiber, a Communications Union District in southern Vermont representing 20 towns looking to build a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to more than 10,000 unserved and underserved households in the region, has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in search of private sector groups interested in a public-private partnership agreement.
The CUD envisions completing all connections by 2024 in two or three phases, with major progress made in the first year. The RFP provides detailed information on member towns for respondents, identifies possible funding identified by its Governing Board, and sets expectations for the resulting network. It sets a deadline for responses of March 26th, 2021.
“We are laser-focused on securing affordable, equitable high-speed Internet in our communities,” DVFiber Chair Ann Manwaring said in October of 2020. “The COVID pandemic has clarified this vital need, for education, for healthcare, for business. We are grateful for the support we have earned to date.”
The CUD model, established in 2015 in Vermont, allows area towns to band together in search of better broadband, leveraging more local resources and spreading the cost of new builds more widely. CUDs have helped Vermont towns by allowing them to bond together, offering the chance to entice investment in places that would otherwise struggle by pairing less dense communities with more dense ones, and by creating network efficiencies and building more resilient communities through lessons learned. Nine CUDs currently exist in the state (see map, with DVFiber in red at bottom right).
DVFiber, organized in April of 2020, originally brought together Halifax, Marlboro, Stamford, Stratton, Wilmington, and Whitingham. Since then, it’s expanded to include 20 towns in total. It currently covers 24,400 households, 7,300 of which are completely unserved by wireline broadband at speeds of at least 25/3 Megabits per second (Mbps). The towns of Halifax, Wardsboro, Readsboro, Whitingham, and Marlboro are in particular need of service, with at least 80% of occupied premises unserved by basic broadband as identified in the RFP. Predictably, the document also shows, half to two-thirds of households in those towns responded in a February 2020 survey that they would “definitely” subscribe to any new fiber service, with another quarter saying they would “probably” subscribe.
Two Grants, A Survey, and a Business Plan
DV Fiber has gained significant momentum in its short existence. It was awarded a $100,000 CARES Act grant in October to conduct pole studies in Halifax, Stamford, and Whitingham. A second grant of $8,000 from the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation came in early fall, which provides funds for additional support. An October 2020 Fiber Business Plan [pdf] presented to the Windham Regional Commission indicated “a clear path” for DVFiber to “launch and oversee” the construction and operation of a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.
“The one key thing to know about DVFiber,” Manwaring wrote in a letter to the editor for the Deerfield Valley News in November, “is that, where there was none before, we finally have a path to secure high speed broadband for all unserved and underserved folks in our communities.”
Statewide efforts will also be boosted by another recent grant. In January of 2021, the Vermont Department of Public Service won a one-year, $1 million award from the Northern Borders Regional Commission (NBRC) in support of CUD efforts across the state. The grant joins $1.5 million already held in support of broadband expansion efforts, and is split between $750,000 for infrastructure funding and $250,000 to hire a Project Developer to help the CUDs navigate public and private funding avenues.
Responses are due by March 26th. Questions should be emailed to David Jones at clerk@DVFiber.net. Responses can be emailed to the same email address, or sent via US mail at the address in the RFP.
See DV Fiber’s press release here.
See the full RFP here, or download it below.