NRTC is joining a project to provide fiber-fed broadband service to towns throughout rural Northeast Vermont. NEK Community Broadband, an organization of 45 towns and three counties, has chosen NRTC, NRTC member Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT) and consulting firm Mission Broadband Inc. (MBI) to help build fiber infrastructure to underserved parts of the state.
“Creating a universally available, fast, reliable and affordable internet option as soon as we can is critical to meeting the economic, educational, health and social needs of our residents and businesses,” Christa Shute, NEK Broadband’s interim executive director, said in a press release.
“NRTC is a member-owned cooperative, and this type of undertaking is what we are all about,” said Jim DaBramo, president of NRTC Broadband Solutions.
NEK (short for Northeast Kingdom, the local nickname for the region) is a Communications Union District (CUD), a form of nonprofit entity created under Vermont state law to band municipalities in communications infrastructure projects. To date, nine CUDs have formed to create eventual broadband service through most of the state’s land area. The target towns in the NEK area, pictured in the dark orange regions, have available internet services slower than 25 Mbps downstream.
Several companies responded to an NEK request for proposals to build the fiber facilities. The NEK board during a meeting last week picked a joint NRTC/WCVT/Mission Broadband proposal. NEK and the participants have not yet announced precisely how they will divide the various tasks. However, each has extensive experience and tools to contribute to the project:
- NRTC has designed and constructed fiber networks with a wealth of tools, including powerful mapping capabilities through CrowdFiber, pinpointing where broadband service does or does not exist and devising the most efficient ways to enable service. NRTC also recently expanded its capacity to help members operate their new networks after launch.
- WCVT provides fiber broadband service to its own Vermont telephone service area at tiers up to 1 Gbps. Last month, WCVT signed a network management agreement to assist Maple Broadband, a CUD seeking to serve towns in the west central part of the state.
- Mission Broadband over 25 years has experience with consulting for community broadband projects and public/private partnerships, similar to the CUD concept. It also has design, mapping and project planning resources.