Tag: "ecfiber"

Posted July 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

In true publicly owned network fashion, ECFiber in Vermont has increased speeds without raising rates. This is the third such speed increase in four years that did not come with a price increase. Even better, ECFiber plans to do it again next year.

The break down of the changes are:

Basic: Increases from 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 17 Mbps

Standard: Increases from 25 Mbps to 40 Mbps

Ultra: Doubles from 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps

Wicked: Goes from 500 Mbps to 700 Mbps

All speeds from ECFiber are symmetrical, so upload and download speeds are the same. Later this year, the organization plans to increase speeds again and the organization will offer a gigabit plan.

Publicly Owned Networks Are Doing It

Municipal networks and regional networks make it a habit to increase speeds with modest or no price increases. We’ve noticed the behavior in several places, but gathered data for eight publicly owned networks in the state of Tennessee to highlight this characteristic.

Check out our Municipal Networks: Speed Increases & Affordable Prices fact sheet.

Expanding While Saving Public Dollars

As we reported in March, the town-owned Communications Union District is expanding and building out in remaining member towns. They are also serving community facilities, such as schools, libraries, and town halls with the fastest speeds available for only $74 per month. Incumbents charge $2,000 per month for the same level of service. In a school, that comes to about $23,000 each year to free up for educational programs, rather than telecommunications costs.

Listen our recent conversation with Carole Monroe and Irv Thomae about the network in episode 251 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Posted May 9, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for Episode 251 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Carole Monroe and Irv Thomae discuss connectivity in East Central Vermont and the future of the ECFiber Network. Listen to this episode here.

 

Carole Monroe: What we see, in this area, is that most of the customers coming to ECFiber are customers that are coming from FairPoint.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 251 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. ECFiber is a consortium of 24 member towns in East Central Vermont that banded together in 2008, on a mission to bring high quality connectivity to their small, rural towns. The project began with funds from many local investors. Since then, the network has expanded, and a new structure will allow ECFiber to continue to grow. In this interview, we learn about ECFiber's past, present, and future plans. Christopher's guests, Carole Monroe and Irv Thomae, describe what it was like getting the community network going. Now, here's Christopher with Carole Monroe and Irv Thomae, talking about ECFiber in Vermont.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell, and I'm enthusiastic today, to be talking with Carole Monroe, once more. Carole is now the CEO of ValleyNet. Welcome back to the show.

Carole Monroe: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: And we also have Irv Thomae on, who is the district chairman of the governing board for the East Central Vermont Fiber Network-

Irv Thomae: Telecommunications district.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. We're going to explain for a second, how that used to be ECFiber, and now has a different name because it has a new, exciting approach. So welcome to the show, Irv.

Irv Thomae: Thank you.

Christopher Mitchell: Maybe that's actually just a really good place to start, quickly. Irv, can you just remind me how ECFiber is now structured?

Irv Thomae: We were and still are a collection of 24 municipalities in East Central Vermont, but we formed, originally, under... Read more

Posted May 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

We’ve been covering the East-Central Vermont Community Fiber-Optic Network (ECFiber) since 2009; it has come a long way from inception. ECFiber is a group of rural Vermont towns that are working together to deploy a regional network to offer high-quality Internet access to communities typically stuck with slow, unreliable connections such as DSL and dial-up. In this episode, Christopher talks with Carole Monroe, CEO of ValleyNet, and Irv Thomae, District Chairmen of ECFiber’s Governing Board. The not-for-profit ValleyNet operates the ECFiber network.

The organization has faced ups and downs and always seemed to overcome challenges. It began with funding from individual local investors who recognized the need to bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to the region. Now, the organization is characterized as a “communications union district,” which creates greater funding flexibility and stability.

In this interview, Carole and Irv talk about the new designation and the plans for bringing the network to the communities that are clamoring for better Internet access. They also get into recent developments surrounding overbuilding by DSL provider FairPoint, a project funded by CAF II subsidies. We hear how ECFiber is bringing better connectivity to local schools and helping save public dollars at the same time and we find out more about the ways Vermonters in the eastern rural communities are using their publicly owned network.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file... Read more

Posted March 31, 2017 by lgonzalez

We haven’t reported on East Central Fiber (ECFiber) in almost a year and, boy, are things hopping in Vermont. The community network has obtained funding to expand in east-central Vermont and have a plan to bring high-quality connectivity to more towns during the next two years. In the mean time, FairPoint Communications is using federal funding to overbuild inferior DSL in many of the areas already served by ECFiber. No, this is not an April Fool's Joke.

First, The Good News: ECFiber Is Growing

We recently touched base with Carole Monroe, Stan Williams, and Irv Thomae from ECFiber in Vermont to get caught up on what's happening with the publicly owned network comprised of 24 member towns. 

The last time we shared an update, they had just announced plans to expand the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. The organization of 24 member towns received an infusion of $9 million in revenue bonds, which allowed ECFiber to pay down existing debt and add more fiber miles to the network.

Prior to obtaining the new funding source, ECFiber had always used the crowd funding approach, which limited growth to small and steady deployments. In 2015, the state legislature enacted a state law that created “communications union districts.” A Union District can consist of municipalities that join forces to invest in Internet infrastructure; the new model made it easier for ECFiber to obtain funding for larger deployments.

This February, ECFiber announced that the network would now bring service to parts of Royalton, Strafford, Pittsfield, and Randolph, with more growth on the way:

“These expansions have been funded privately and through Connectivity Initiative grants from the state’s Dept. of Public Service,” said Irv Thomae, Chairman of ECFiber and Governing Board delegate from Norwich. “We’re pleased that more residents in these areas are now able to enjoy the benefits of locally grown, full time, state-of-the-art real broadband, Later this year we will bring our service to six entire towns, including Pittsfield, Pomfret, West Windsor, Barnard, Strafford, and Thetford. We plan to fully... 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 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."

Posted May 6, 2015 by lgonzalez

In April, ECFiber connected it 1,000th customer in Thetford Hill. Users at the First Congregational Church, described as the oldest meeting house in the state, have nothing but kudos for ECFiber and their new high-speed symmetrical Internet access. From the press release [PDF]:

“The service has been great so far,” said David Hooke, Chair of the Board of Trustees, “and we really appreciate that ECFiber is a community owned organization committed to bringing state of the art connectivity to rural east central Vermont. This will be a boon for the whole region.”

To celebrate the milestone, ECFiber Chairman Irv Thomae presented a special certificate to the Church.

This is just the latest accomplishment as ECFiber expands across Vermont. The consortium of 24 towns continues to obtain financing one expansion at a time. According to another press release [PDF], the community owned network just added an expansion to encompass the towns of Chelsea and Tunbridge. This will allow 80 more rural household to subscribe; more will soon be on the way:

“This is the first of several expansions we’ll be opening this summer,” said Irv Thomae, Chairman of ECFiber and Governing Board delegate from Norwich. “We’re pleased that more residents in this area are now able to enjoy the benefits of locally grown, full time, state-of-the-art real broadband.”

Read our previous coverage of EC Fiber here.

UPDATE: Today, ECFiber announced that it is now offering free bandwidth upgrades to local schools, public institutions, and libraries. The announcement, another example of a publicly owned network going the extra mile to improve the quality of life in the community, is published in VermontBiz. From the announcement:

“Thanks to our high speed infrastructure and state-funded dark fiber and grants that have helped interconnect many of our hubs, ECFiber has excess bandwidth (particularly during daytime hours) and we are pleased to be able to offer it... Read more

Posted April 27, 2015 by lgonzalez

ECFiber hopes to transform its business model in order to attract investors, reported Valley News in February. The organization is now an "inter-local contract," an entity somewhat unique to Vermont, but seeks to change to a "telecommunications union district." Similar to a municipal utility district, the telecommunications union district is created by two or more municipalities. The new business model would not change ECFiber's governance or require financial support from local towns but officials believe it would attract more outside investors.

Last year, ECFiber announced it would expand in 2015, seeking large scale funding to help speed up deployment. Since 2008, the organization has raised over $6 million for deployment from individual investors and now serves more than 1,000 subscribers. Unfortunately, this method financing slows expansion. The results are bad for ECFiber and bad for local consumers:

“The worst thing (about ECFiber’s delay) is a lot of the people who wanted to have it weren’t able to get it right away,” said [ECFiber Treasurer John] Roy.

At this point, FairPoint, Northern New England’s provider of land-line service, is able to reach more rural areas than ECFiber with its high-speed Internet service. But, FairPoint’s speeds of up to 30 megabits per second are slower than the 400 megabits per second ECFiber’s cables can provide, said Roy.

“If we’re going to get this job done before the end of this decade, we need to step up the rate,” said [Irv] Thomae [ECFiber's Governing Board Chariman].

It would take another 17 - 18 years to deploy 1,600 miles of fiber, the ECFiber goal. If the organization can raised $40 million from larger investors, that period can be reduced to 3 - 5 years, estimated Roy.

In order to achieve the business model change, ECFiber seeks approval from the State Legislature, which will create a union district via H 353 [PDF]. Local communities served by ECFiber must also approve the measure by ballot at their Town Meetings. Thetford approved the measure in February and ECFiber officials expected other communities to follow... Read more

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