East Central Vermont Fiber Network

Last night, at the request of the Town Manager and Bethel Selectboard, I attended a closed presentation on the East Central Vermont Fiber Network. In a nutshell, they are proposing to build on the community-owned fiber-optic network built by Burlington Telecom in the Burlington, Vermont area, to bring fiber to every house in 14 towns in east central Vermont.

Some notable points from the presentation:

  • The US is behind the rest of the world in terms of broadband access
    • The Upper Valley is behind the rest of the US
      • The east central portion of the state is behind the Upper Valley.
  • The fiber network would be used to provide telephone, television, and Internet access to every home that “currently has a [phone or electric] pole to it.”
  • The network would be a community-owned, not-for-profit entity. Without the profit motive, rates can be substantially lower.
  • They require an average of 12 houses per mile to make it cost-effective. Since Bethel has an average of 11.8 houses per mile, we would bump the average up.
  • The plan is that this would be a capital lease by each town, and by state law it would not be considered a debt owed by the town.
  • The packages are very competitively priced. For example, a basic rate service might include 1Mb up/down Internet access, $0.02/min local calling, $0.05/min long distance, and 20 television channels, for around $50/month.
  • The up-front cost to towns is nominal, basically some legal fees. The infrastructure is being built out by private investors.
  • They claim they will have a better acceptable use policy than, say, those of Comcast and Verizon. This would be the advantage of a community-owned network.
  • The stability and reliability of fiber-optics is significantly better than that of copper networks, which require repeaters at regular intervals and have significant range restrictions.
  • They plan to open up the service to anyone, and would have business packages available.
  • The network would use Burlington Telecom’s existing technical support and billing/customer service infrastructure.

This sounds like a fantastic idea. The downsides are small, and the advantages are numerous. Fiber optics to every home. This is this century’s “power and phone to every home.”

New Sign at 245 Main Street

Last year we started the (slow and painful) process of trying to get a sign put out in front of our building downtown in Bethel. After about a year of back and forth with our (then) chosen sign designer, I got the price estimate.

It was double the range we had been discussing. Despite my prior decision to use this vendor, I thought it prudent at that time to seek other options. We ended up choosing another local sign vendor, Scott Fisk of Sharon, Vermont. Scott did an excellent job, and his first design was right in line with what we were thinking. Five weeks later, we have a new sign out front. So far, the response has been all positive.