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Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006

Broadband milestones reached in county

First 100 miles of fiber network installed, FairPoint to expand coverage in several towns

BRATTLEBORO—Two major milestones have been met in the efforts to bring broadband Internet to locations throughout Windham County.

Sovernet Fiber Corp. and the Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) announced on July 19 that the Vermont FiberConnect (VFC) project has recently completed constructing the first 100 miles of fiber optic network.

According to Gregg Noble, Sovernet’s business development manager, those 100 miles of fiber include stretches of Routes 5 and 9 in Windham County.

When the 821-mile network is completed by June 2013, it will connect more than 340 community anchor institutions, including state-owned buildings, public safety towers, public and private K-12 schools, and public libraries and colleges.

Currently, Sovernet has more than half of the anchors under contract, including 41 libraries and 51 K-12 public schools.

“Windham County has the largest total number of anchors in the project,” said Noble.

Before crews could start hanging fiber, the VTA and Sovernet went through two years of planning and engineering the network, issuing RFPs for construction and electronics, applying for permits and pole attachments on more than 23,000 poles, and working through delays caused by Tropical Storm Irene.

Noble said Sovernet will begin connecting customers on the new network before the end of the year.

In another major broadband development, FairPoint Communications announced on July 23 that it is expanding its high-speed network in 53 towns around Vermont.

Windham County towns expected to see expanded broadband include Halifax, Newfane, Putney, Stratton, Townshend, Wardsboro, Westminster, and Whitingham.

According to FairPoint, the company will leverage $2 million from the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund (CAF), established last year to accelerate broadband buildout to the 18 million Americans living in rural areas who currently have no access to robust broadband services. This initiative will bring broadband to approximately 7,100 locations in Vermont, of which more than 2,600 will qualify for CAF funding.

FairPoint estimates it will take up to three years to complete this project.

Last month, FairPoint announced that parts of Dummerston and Guilford would also see expanded broadband service as part of a $6.6 million plan developed by the company and the Vermont Department of Public Service to use money collected from penalties assessed between 2008 and 2010 to pay for reaching 19 areas in the state that are lacking high-speed Internet.

FairPoint says it now provides access to broadband to nearly 90 percent of its Vermont customers.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #162 (Wednesday, July 25, 2012).

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