Article, Member Stories

Construction Begins on Vermont Fiber Network

Randy Sukow


Fiber Installation in Vermont

NRTC and partners began construction on a project to establish fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service throughout remote northeastern Vermont. Crews began on Monday of this week in the Concord, VT, area with NRTC Broadband Services working with a local construction firm.

NEK Community Broadband, a nonprofit organization with support from the state government, chose a partnership of NRTC, Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT) and Mission Broadband to build a fiber network reaching 45 towns and environs in three counties. In the weeks since that September decision, NRTC has taken on the task of designing the network along with managing the project and overseeing construction.

NRTC-member telco WCVT will be the ISP/operator and will manage the network on NEK’s behalf at launch, a role it plays for other communities in the state. Mission Broadband is providing adjunct staff and project coordination.

Work begins under some deadline pressure. Portions of the network must be completed by Dec. 31, under Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act federal government funding rules. That means that crews will be dealing with the additional challenge of late fall in New England.

“Weather is definitely a challenge in Vermont and impacts just about everything,” said Kurt Gruendling, WCVT’s VP, Marketing and Business Development. “We’ve already gotten some snowfall in the higher elevations, so winter is definitely on its way.”

Tom Whitaker, VP of Member Operations for NRTC Broadband Solutions, says that crews have been working in temperatures near freezing so far and there have been a few snow squalls … “seasonable for the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont … Not enough to slow down our aerial crews.” A concern now is to complete underground construction before frost sets in some areas, he said

Picturesque view of the NEK project deployment area.

Update, Nov. 18: WCVT’s Kurt Gruendling emphasizes that the NEK project is a team effort. “All partners are pulling out all of the stops and working feverishly to get this project completed by the deadline,” he says. At the same time, he says that the CARES portion of the construction “is just one small piece of the larger project to bring high-speed Internet service to the unserved and underserved areas of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.”

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