In late April 2019, the Vermont Public Service Department announced $220,000 worth of grants to bring high-speed Internet service to 220 homes and businesses around the state. The Department awarded ECFiber with about $63,000 to serve nearly 50 homes and businesses in Tunbridge and Corinth, Vermont, according to the press release.
This was a competitive award: 20 organizations applied for $960,000 worth of grants from the Connectivity Initiative, but only a few organizations received funding. The Department explained that they chose those projects that had the most bang for their buck. The Department is spending less than $1,000 on average for each address that is considered unserved or underserved. According to June Tierney, Commissioner of the Public Service Department:
“The Connectivity Initiative enables providers to bring high-speed internet to communities with some of the hardest to serve locations, both in terms of cost and terrain.”
From DSL to Fiber
ECFiber is a community-driven effort of 24 member towns focused on bringing high-speed Internet service to rural Vermont, but for the first few years of its existence, the government continually passed over ECFiber for funding. The organization instead used an innovative self-financing model to raise funds, got some funding from a capital investment group, and later, after the state established the "communications union district" designation, issued revenue bonds to continue to grow. Now ECFiber connects more than 2,000 rural homes and businesses, and it continues to expand. Tunbridge and Corinth are small towns that are finally getting the high-speed Internet access they need to stay connected.
Tunbridge is home to about 1,300 people and Corinth has a population of about 1,400. As of April 2019, Corinth is completing a new town plan that will guide their community far into the future. In the May 2019 draft town plan, high-speed Internet service is highlighted as a needed utility, and the plan recognizes that the current DSL in the town is not enough. In the accompanying town survey, 88 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed:
“Universal cell phone and high speed internet service are important in Corinth.”
Documenting this level of support for high-speed Internet access is a good step for any community because it can be used to support funding efforts. Corinth will soon say goodbye to DSL and hello to fast Fiber-to-the-Home service thanks to ECFiber and the Vermont Public Service Department.