Local News

Company plans to expand high-speed Internet in local underserved rural towns

By Stephen Seitz

PITTSFIELD — ECFiber, officially known as the East Central Vermont Telecommunications District, is planning significant fiber optic cable growth this year and next. Now they want their customers to provide a little guidance as to where this growth should take place.

“We’re in a position to have funding to move forward with a significant build,” said Carol Monroe, ECFiber’s CEO. “We’ve launched a campaign to find the towns with the most demand and most commitment.”

According to a written statement, the company plans to add 110 miles of network this year, and 250 more miles in 2017. Monroe said the network could double in size.

Monroe said the cost of the project would depend on the number of miles completed.

“It costs about $30,000 per mile, and we usually get five to seven customers per mile,” she said.

Monroe said that Pittsfield seems to be eager to expand its network. “They’re really gung-ho,” Monroe said. “They started with nothing, and now they’re nearly at 62 percent [of residents connected with fiber optic cable], and they just need to be in the top three or four.”

The Pittsfield effort is being spearheaded by resident Marian Abrams, whose husband said she was out of town and could not be easily reached. Abrams did, however, release a news bulletin about the ECFiber contest. She listed the reasons she believes the project is important.

“High speed internet access is already affecting resale values and will only increase its influence,” she wrote. “Children, more and more, will have homework that requires high speed Internet. Remember how you used to be able to rent movies at video stores? Those stores have closed because they expect people to stream their movies. Banking, education and many other services will become more and more difficult to access without high speed Internet in the future.”

ECFiber has created a webpage at www.ecfiber.net/levelup for customers to sign up.  In a written statement, Monroe said, “No initial deposit is required and all pre-subscribers will receive discounted installation and one year of the next higher service level at no additional cost. An additional 250 miles of network could mean 4-8 towns being completely covered by 2017. ECFiber plans to complete the 1,400 miles of network needed to reach all underserved locations in its 24 towns by 2019.”

ECFiber is a cooperative network of towns in central and eastern Vermont. Based in Royalton, the member towns include Barnard, Bethel, Braintree, Brookfield, Chelsea, Granville, Hancock, Hartford, Montpelier, Norwich, Pittsfield, Pomfret, Randolph, Reading, Rochester, Sharon, Stockbridge, Strafford, Thetford, Tunbridge, Vershire, West Windsor and Woodstock.

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