Tag: "Vermont"

Posted March 2, 2017 by lgonzalez

Not everyone’s American dream involves owning a single-family home but most of us DO want high-quality Internet access in our household. In major metropolitan areas, apartment renters are more likely to have cable and some are lucky enough to have Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH). It’s only been recently, however, that owners of multiple dwelling unit buildings (MDUs) have really started to appreciate how fiber-optic connectivity, especially the gigabit kind, can add value to their investment. Now, a pair of MDU developers in Vermont will be the first to offer gigabit connectivity in the state to their renters and they’re choosing Burlington Telecom (BT) to provide the service.

The Gold Standard

“Fiber optic networks are fast becoming the gold standard both at work and at home, so it was important for us to have Burlington Telecom for this project.” says Jacqueline Dagesse [one of the developers], “Including Gig internet as an amenity offers our tenants instant access to the fastest, most reliable connectivity available without the hassles of signing up for service, waiting for an installer or committing to long-term contracts.”

The 27-apartment building is located in downtown Winooski, a town that borders the city of Burlington. The exercise facility in the building will also be a Wi-Fi hotspot. In addition to offering gigabit connectivity, the developers wanted to include various energy efficient amenities that would promote sustainability. The building will open this summer.

It Adds Up

MDUs with FTTH bring higher rents and a higher purchase prices for condos or units that are owned by residents. According to research by RVA, LLC, and reproduced in a neat graphic by the FTTH Council, almost 30 percent of people in the U.S. live in MDUs and FTTH connectivity can increase renters net income by 11 percent. This may be the first gigabit access apartment building in Vermont, but it won't be the last.

Posted February 15, 2017 by lgonzalez

Last spring, the BT Advisory Board (BTAB) released a report that recommended the city of Burlington, Vermont, try to find a buyer with local ties to purchase its network with the troubled past. As the deadline draws near and the city seeks out the right entity to take the reigns, the community holds on to that goal. Keep BT Local!, the local organization that has been working since 2012 to turn the network into a cooperative, has announced that it will make an offer on the network.

According to Seven Days:

Alan Matson, vice chair of Keep BT Local, said the local co-op will put forward an offer for the utility. The member-funded effort likely won’t put forward as substantial an offer as a private tech company would, Matson acknowledged. Still, he said, “We hope to be one of the finalists in July.”

Matt Cropp, a member of Keep BT Local, said the co-op model would “build broad-based community wealth” and urged Burlingtonians to pitch in. He said he was willing to commit a portion of his retirement savings to the cause. 

Matson and Cropp were among a group of citizens who attended a public meeting with Advisory Board members to discuss options and offer advice on choosing a buyer. As expected, many of the attendees described the network as a valuable public asset and expressed concern that it not fall into the hands of a large, absentee telecommunications conglomerate such as Comcast. 

Choosing Finalists

As part of the process, the Board voted to send its proposed sale process to the city council for approval. Last year’s report established a set of criteria which the city will use to evaluate interested parties. Once the city council approves the process they propose, the BTAB will create a list of interested buyers and officially launch the sales process. They intend to create a list of finalists who would then present publicly before the city council and, by the end of July, the council would choose a... Read more

Posted December 3, 2016 by lgonzalez

Burlington Telecom has popped up on our radar before as one of those munis that goes the extra mile for the community. They’re at it again this holiday season as they pledge to help support local charities.

According to VTDigger:

From now until the end of the year, Burlington Telecom will donate $100 to a Burlington based non-profit for each new customer subscribing to BT Internet, television, or phone services.

Customers will have the choice to direct BT’s donation to one of five organizations: Committee on Temporary Shelter, Community Health Centers of Burlington, Howard Center, Spectrum Youth & Family Services, and Steps to End Domestic Violence.

As a bonus, an additional $25 will be donated for any current Burlington Telecom customer who uses BT’s Refer-a-Friend Program.

Record Of Care

We’ve covered their past decision to launch a computer repair service so customers had somewhere local to get hardware advice. In 2011, BT announced a partnership with a local nonprofit to provide affordable computers to local families. Recently, BT began offering free Wi-Fi in the city’s transit center so travelers could stay connected.

Locals Want Local Interest

Keep BT Local! is a cooperative started by Burlington residents and businesses that are raising capital to purchase the network from Blue Water LLC, the company that currently owns the assets. When CitiBank sued the city for $33 million, the settlement agreement required that a third party (eventually Blue Water) take temporary ownership and the city lease the network until they could agree on a permanent buyer. 

The BT Advisory Board recommended a local owner this past spring. Keep BT Local! has been... Read more

Posted October 21, 2016 by Scott

Burlington Telecom is teaming with Green Mountain Transit to provide free high-speed Wi-Fi to commuters and GMT employees at the new transit center, reports Vermont Business magazine. The bus transit center opened on Oct. 13.

The magazine noted:

“A reliable high speed Wi-Fi connection on the Downtown Transit Center platform will improve the customer experience, allowing passengers to use their wait time more effectively as they work, connect with friends, or download an e-book to enjoy on the ride.”  

Burlington Telecom general manager Stephen Barraclough told Vermont Business:

 “The opening of the new Downtown Transit Center is a much needed development for the many who commute to and from Burlington daily, and provides an exciting opportunity to highlight Burlington’s powerful gigabit infrastructure as an accelerator for economic, educational and community benefit.” 

Burlington Telecom joins a growing list of U.S. communities that are making free high-speed Internet connectivity available at public transit stations and airports. 

Free Wi-Fi At The City Gateway

In April 2015, we noted that LUS Fiber began sharing its municipal Gigabit network with travelers at the Lafayette Regional Airport in Louisiana. Free Wi-Fi is available at the airport supported by LUS Fiber, allowing guests to check email, post to social media, and browse the Internet.

wireless-icon.jpg

"We know that businesses choose to come to Lafayette for a variety of reasons and many have cited our 100% fiber-optic network as one of those reasons,” said City-Parish President Joey Durel. "As a gateway to Lafayette, we want visitors to experience the ultra high speeds of a Gigabit Internet connection, from the moment they arrive... Read more

Posted April 26, 2016 by ternste

The East Central Vermont Community Fiber-Optic Network (ECFiber), a 235-mile Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network that currently connects over 1,200 customers across 24 small towns in east central Vermont, is doing well. It’s doing so well, in fact, that a capital investment group will commit $9 million in long-term financing to the network, a loan that will allow ECFiber to expand and spend down some of its existing debt. 

ECFiber announced last month, that it will use about half of the funds to activate 110 miles of existing fiber this year and add 250 more miles of fiber in 2017 bringing the network to approximately 600 miles. Network officials will use the remaining funds to pay down $7 million in debt; the move will allow ECFiber to save money through reduced interest rates and spread out loan payments over a longer period of time.

Stability Begets New Financing, New Possibilities

The news of this new injection of debt financing comes several years after the original plan to build a larger 1,900-mile, $90 million FTTH network ultimately didn’t materialize in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. When ECFiber failed to secure debt financing for that larger plan, the network scaled back its ambitions, turning to direct investments and raising $7 million from 479 local investors to construct the current network.

This self-financing strategy (for more, listen to our Chris interview Carole Monroe, former General Manager in Community Broadband Bits podcast #177) made ECFiber a reality. This new financing will allow the network to expand at a faster pace and allows ECFiber to significantly stretch its footprint. In the past, the crowd funding approach allowed for targeted, smaller expansions.

The network became eligible for the new debt financing after ECFiber officials took proactive steps in recent years to demonstrate the... Read more

Posted April 12, 2016 by lgonzalez

As Burlington, Vermont, searches for a buyer for Burlington Telecom, the local residents and business owners continue to remain engaged in the future of their beloved Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. Most recently, they made it clear that their first priority is finding a local company to own and operate the fiber network.

VT Digger reported that, according to a survey conducted by the BT Board of Advisors:

Several residents have said they would like to see Burlington Telecom sold to a locally owned co-operative and that their greatest concern is the utility being sold to one of its larger competitors such as Comcast, AT&T or FairPoint.

From the report:

Though the City is precluded by the terms of its settlement Agreement with Citibank from continuing to own the Asset, a carried equity interest is permitted. It is important that all ownership options be explored and considered in light of the legal requirements and the City’s goals for BT. However, the BTAB [Burlington Telecom Advisory Board] agrees with the vast majority of interested participants in this process that the sale of BT to one of its existing, national competitors would likely not be in the overall best interests of the City. 

At a recent meeting, David Provost, chair of the advisory board said, “The best option from our perspective is finding a buyer with ties to the local community that will allow the city to have a minority stake in Burlington Telecom."

A Troubled Past, An Uncertain Future

After years of cover-ups by the city's past leadership, CitiBank eventually sued Burlington for $33 million. The parties settled and, as part of the settlement, Burlington transferred ownership to Blue Water LLC, a company formed by Burlington businessman Trey Pecor. In exchange, Blue Water provided $6 million in bridge financing to allow the city to settle the lawsuit with Citibank. The city is still leasing the network temporarily but the ultimate goal is to find a partner to purchase the network. 

According to the terms of the settlement, Burlington can... Read more

Posted February 26, 2016 by htrostle

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.”

Posted February 5, 2016 by lgonzalez

The East-Central Vermont Community Fiber-Optic Network (EC Fiber) recently announced plans to increase speeds across tiers with no increase in prices.

Changes will look like this:

  • "Basic" will increase from 7 to 10 Megabits per second (Mbps)
  • "Standard" will increase from 20 to 25 Mbps
  • "Ultra" will double from 50 to 100
  • The new "Wicked" plan will increase from 100 to 500 AND will include a price decrease. (Current subscribers to the Wicked tier who pay for 400 Mbps will also get the bump up to 500 Mbps and the price decrease.)

All speeds from EC Fiber are symmetrical so both download and upload are equally fast.

Self-Funded at the Start

Twenty-four communities in Vermont make up the consortium which began in 2009. The towns joined forces to deploy a regional Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network when large corporate incumbent providers chose to invest elsewhere. Slow DSL was the best option in the area and local residents, businesses, and local institutions needed better connectivity.

Individual investors funded the initial network buildout but last year a new Vermont law took affect that allows towns to create "communications union districts." EC Fiber now functions under such a governance structure and organization officials expect to more easily attract larger investors and borrow at lower interest rates. EC Fiber hopes to answer requests to expand beyond its 24 member towns.

Characteristic Altruism

Increasing speeds with little or no rate increases is typical of publicly owned network communities. Tullahoma's LightTUBe, Chattanooga's EPB Fiber, and Lafayette's LUS Fiber have done it, often with little or no fanfare.

Publicly owned networks are also known to shun data caps, another tool big players like Comcast use to squeeze every penny out of subscribers.... Read more

Posted January 6, 2016 by Scott

A new state law is on the books in Vermont that supporters expect will encourage more investor activity supporting community broadband networks. 

The new law, which took effect this past June, allows for the creation of “communications union districts,” enabling towns and cities to band together to form geographic entities dedicated to establishing fiber-optic broadband networks for their area’s residents and businesses. 

A New Nomenclature

While Vermont towns have been able to work cooperatively via inter-local contracts, the new law is less cumbersome and uses a governmental nomenclature more familiar to most people—the union district. The union district governance model has been used for many years throughout Vermont, including by various utilities that have multi-town operations to handle, for example, sewer and water service.  

Carole Monroe; general manager of the East Central Vermont Community Fiber-Optic Network (ECFiber), a consortium of 24 Vermont communities that have banded together to provide broadband service; told our Christopher Mitchell there isn’t much practical difference for her group operating now as the East Central Vermont Telecommunications District instead of by an inter-local contract.  

“But I can say that in the municipal investment markets, they’re much more familiar with the municipal utility district, whether it’s a water district or sewer district or something along those lines,” Monroe told Chris in a recent edition of Community Broadband Bits podcast. “A municipal utility district is a common language for them. Inter-local contracts, not so much.” 

ECFiber Grew From Inter-Local Contract 

Irvin Thomae, chairman of the EC Vermont Telecommunications District board, agreed. He noted that seven years ago the east central Vermont communities created ECFiber through an inter-local contract. “But this (the inter-local contract) was unfamiliar to investors beyond our state borders,” Thomae told us.

“We needed a structure more capable of being recognized by large institutional investors. It (the communications union district) makes it easier for community broadband networks to appeal more for large investors.”

Jerry Ward, an ECFiber delegate from Randolph Center, earlier in 2015... Read more

Posted November 17, 2015 by christopher

Carole Monroe is back on Community Broadband Bits for Episode 177 this week, to discuss the East Central Vermont Fiber network and its unique financing model. Carole is now the General Manager for EC Fiber. She previously joined us for episode 36 to discuss FastRoads in New Hampshire. And we previously discussed EC Fiber with Leslie Nulty in episode 9. Years later, EC Fiber is approaching 1,200 subscribers in rural Vermont and is growing much more rapidly with some open access dark fiber connections created by the state in a specific effort to enable last mile connectivity. We discuss the impact on the community, how much people in rural regions desire high quality Internet access rather than slow DSL, and also a brief mention of some progress in New Hampshire to expand the Fast Roads network. Read the transcript from this episode here. We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. This show is 21 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Warm Duck Shuffle."

Pages

Subscribe to Vermont