Public-private effort to accelerate the construction of fiber optic broadband

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VSECU, Vermont Community Foundation, Vermont Communications Union Districts Association (VCUDA) agreement allows Communications Union Districts (CUD) to access fiber optic cable in time for the 2022 construction season, while providing substantial savings

Vermont Business Magazine Christine Hallquist, Executive Director of The Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) today announced that the Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU), the Vermont Community Foundation (VCF) and the Communication Union Districts Association (VCUDA) of Vermont have teamed up to purchase more than 1 000 miles of fiber optic cable in time for the 2022 construction season in conjunction with a 1,000 mile purchase by NEK Broadband, the state’s largest union communications district. The 2,000 miles of cable will be used to build state-owned broadband networks in the state of Vermont.

SEE CUD STATUS CARD BELOW.

Hallquist says, “This partnership provides the capital needed to purchase the fiber optic cable ahead of the grant awards in early 2022. The substantial savings will also allow Communications Union Districts to expand to more addresses offering Vermonters a fast and affordable Internet access.

This purchase comes at a critical time. Supply chain issues and the influx of federal funds to build fiber optic networks have resulted in long wait times for delivery, in some cases up to 52 weeks. According to CCG, a telecommunications consultancy and discussions with distributors, prices for fiber produced in the country, as required by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), are skyrocketing. The National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) provides this fiber at a fixed price, but expects its prices to increase by 35% early next year. Fiber purchased by VCUDA and NEK Broadband this month will begin arriving in spring 2022.

The combined purchase of nearly $ 7 million would not have been possible without the support of funding partners VSECU and the Vermont Community Foundation. Both institutions demonstrate their community values ​​first with this effort to bring high speed internet to every Vermonter.

“Rural broadband is essential for connecting individuals and communities across the state to each other and to the rest of the world. Increased connectivity creates opportunities for education, civic engagement and business development, ”said Greg Huysman, director of business loans and services at VSECU. “We encourage all of our members to do what they can to save money while meeting the challenges of life and business. Getting high quality broadband access to people in rural Vermont is a challenge. meet this challenge.

“The Vermont Community Foundation and our family of funds are committed to expanding Vermonters’ access to affordable broadband so that everyone can lead full lives in today’s connected world,” said Dan Smith, President and CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation. “It’s the creative work of forward-thinking partners like the Vermont Community Broadband Board and VSECU that will make universal broadband in Vermont a reality.”

Six of the nine CUDs will receive fiber optic cable as part of the purchase. Each district will receive enough fiber to complete current construction plans for 2022, and in some cases the supply can also last until the 2023 construction season. All CUDs will benefit from the savings and accelerated construction schedule that is taking place. support wholesale purchase.

According to FX Flinn, president of the Vermont Communications Union Districts Association (VCUDA), “We are grateful to VCF and VSECU for helping us place these orders even though our VCBB construction grants have not yet been finalized. This ensures that CUDs who are ready to start construction in the spring will have the materials they need at a reasonable cost. The VCBB is poised to become the US leader in the deployment of ARPA broadband funds, and its participation and encouragement in concluding this agreement is a notable achievement.

NEK Broadband, the most rural CUD, is a member of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative and has contracted with NRTC for the design and management of construction in addition to some equipment purchases. NEK Broadband’s purchase of 1,050 mile fiber optic, backed by a full line of credit from the Community National Bank, provided additional support to fund the statewide effort.

Christa Shute, Executive Director of NEK Broadband, said that “NEK Broadband is very pleased that we have been able to leverage our partnerships to help other CUDs make a larger purchase of essential equipment which in turn will accelerate the delivery. providing fast internet service to the many underserved residents.

According to Vermont Community Broadband Board Deputy Director Robert Fish, “Securing additional funding and funding is needed to expedite the purchase of other equipment and secure a workforce for the year. future. We have said all along that this is a “convenient” time to capture and exploit the resources of state and federal government, private institutions, and state municipalities. With innovative solutions and the continued support of Vermont institutions, the effort to connect every Vermonter to affordable high-speed internet will continue to gain momentum in 2022. “

“This is just the first of many joint purchasing agreements that VCUDA will facilitate,” said Will Anderson, VCUDA program coordinator. “Beyond the issue of materials, we also look forward to partnering with these and other institutions to address two of the biggest challenges CUDs still face: the need for adequate capital to finance construction and need additional manpower to carry out this task. construction as efficiently as possible.

According to Christine Hallquist, Executive Director of the Vermont Community Broadband Board, “Solving workforce issues is the next challenge for partners to face. The Vermont Community Broadband Board and other partners are working to create a tremendous opportunity for many Vermonters to enter the growing field of technology and telecommunications, but statewide legislative support will be needed to help kick-start a “Pay it Forward” plan to help Vermonters transition from low-paying jobs – to those high-paying careers. t “

Cities and financial institutions interested in helping CUDs secure the upcoming construction season and provide additional support through grants, letters of credit, or supporting a Pay it Forward fund, should contact Adam Bornstein, Head of Investments at the mission to the Vermont Community Foundation at (802) 388- 3355 or [email protected] or Will Anderson, program coordinator at VCUDA at (802) 552-0273 or [email protected]

Source: Montpellier, Vermont – 12.13.2021. Vermont Community Broadband Council


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