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Telecom Authority Grants To Help Broadband Expansion

In the state’s effort to provide broadband access to all Vermonters by years’ end the focus is on some of the most difficult to reach areas. 

Many of them involve just a handful of addresses.

One recent state grant designed to bring service to a small part of Orange County also represents a milestone in the history of ECFiber. 

The non-profit municipally owned provider has relied almost exclusively on small local investors to build its network.

The Vermont Telecommunications Authority grant for $167,000 is intended to provide broadband service to 17 addresses in  Norwich and Thetford. 

For ECFiber, which is working to run fiber optic lines to some of the state’s most isolated areas, the grant is significant.  After 5 years of disappointment it’s their first successful broadband grant application.

Without grants or ready access to large sources of capital, ECFiber has created a grassroots funding model fueled by small investments from residents of the nearly two dozen communities it hopes to serve. 

Once it raises enough money in a town, it expands service to that community. 

So far it’s raised $3 million. Chairman Irv Thomae says he hopes the grant money will help boost ECFiber’s effort to raise money from local investors, particularly in the towns the grant will serve.   

“We hope that it will inspire some more folks in those towns to invest. We hope to leverage this grant into additional funding and additional system expansion,” says Thomae.

Thomae says the grant will mean service for more than the 17 customers the telecommunications authority has targeted. 

People who live along the path of the newly strung fiber optic lines will also be served. 

The Vermont Telecommunications Authority also recently awarded a $182,000 to Fairpoint to provide DSL broadband to 14 addresses in Bradford and Rupert.