MONTPELIER, VT – The Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) Board has approved two projects that will bring business-level Internet service to areas in Braintree, Brookfield, Putney, North Randolph, Pomfret and Sharon. The areas were identified through the VTA Business Broadband Improvement Districts initiative and are scheduled to get fiber optic Internet access by mid-2015.

“Enhancing broadband opportunities in our small towns continues to be a priority, and making higher-speed options available for small businesses is incredibly important for their ability to compete in a global marketplace,” stated Governor Peter Shumlin.

Responding to Business Speed Needs

Dozens of small enterprises within these districts depend on the Internet to accomplish tasks that require higher speeds than basic broadband provides. The applicants to the VTAs new business broadband initiative do not have the capacity they need. They range from people creating value-added agricultural products, to medical personnel, engineers, multi-office landscapers, and international consultants, along with those doing many other types of endeavors. The VTA staff met with a number of applicants and heard their stories about the negative impacts of “making do” with access to less than business-level Internet. It limits efficient business practices, holds back growth and reduces the ability to compete.

Open-access Fiber Optic Route
After soliciting information and proposals from Internet service providers and evaluating cost and other factors, the VTA has determined that building an open-access fiber optic route will support the best solutions to end-users.

Christopher Campbell, VTA executive director, states “Fiber optic cable projects represent long-term investments in these rural communities. The infrastructure can be upgraded easily as electronic technology continues to develop.”

In the Districts within Braintree, Brookfield, North Randolph, Pomfret and Sharon, ECFiber will be the anchor tenant on 51 miles of new VTA fiber and offer business-class Internet service.

According to Irv Thomae, chair, ECFiber Governing Board, “ECFiber is delighted to partner with the VTA in delivering high-speed Internet to small businesses in more of our member towns. We believe that urban-quality broadband is essential to a level playing field, and to economic sustainability for rural communities in the 21st century.”

In the West Hill District area of Putney, Southern Vermont Cable will be the anchor tenant and offer Internet service. These Internet Service Providers will also be making their own capital investments as they build connecting fiber between the VTA route and each business location.

The Business Broadband Improvement District initiative has relied on grassroots planning. Each application by a group of businesses was supported by the local municipality. In some areas, local economic development staff helped define the District through direct outreach. Ongoing community engagement is central to bringing service to Districts in all six towns. Identifying matching funds through local commitments is an important factor in meeting the full funding needs for these projects.