Vernon, Vermont, is a little town in search of a boost to the local economy. The Commons reports that residents formed a Fiber Optic Committee in June and now are exploring the possibility of a municipal network.
First an Idea, Now a Plan
In December of 2014, the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant in the town began to shutdown. Over the next few years, as the plant ends operations, it will eliminate a total of 400 jobs in a town of 2,200. Vernon is looking for other keys to economic development.
A local resident came up with an idea -- fiber optics. Vernon's Munson Hicks, is now a member of the 5-person Fiber Optic Committee seeking to find a way to make the idea a reality:
“I couldn’t think of anything that would boost the town more quickly and more securely after the loss of VY [Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant] than creating our own high-speed Internet”
The committee has spoken with contractors, and consultants in order to develop a realistic idea of the cost. They estimate a price tag of $2 - 3 million for a Fiber-to-the-Home project. They are considering a consortium model - crossing state lines, with neighboring towns Hinsdale, New Hampshire, and Bernardston, Massachusetts.
What’s Next for Vernon
The Vernon Planning Commission has not endorsed the plan yet; the Fiber Optics Committee still has a long road ahead of it. They have to confirm community support for the plan and find funding through grants or loans.
At the January 19th community forum, Committee members shared their findings with residents and explained the need for grassroots mementum:
“Really, I think we need to look at this as an economic development initiative for Vernon,” [Committee Member Martin] Langeveld said. “Businesses already need this kind of speed or very soon will need this kind of speed, so having that in town will really be a big plus in trying to get more businesses to locate here.”