NEK Broadband Expands Access To Affordable Fiber In Rural Vermont

NEK Broadband logo

NEK Broadband continues to bring affordable fiber access to the long-neglected corners of the Green Mountain State. According to the latest update by NEK Broadband, a recently completed rollout has delivered affordable fiber access to 700 new addresses across multiple rural Vermont communities.

NEK Broadband is one of nine Communications Union Districts (CUDs) scattered across the state of Vermont. NEK Broadband alone represents 45 Vermont communities across Caledonia, Essex, Orleans and Lamoille Counties in the northeast part of the state (see the full list of communities here).

The CUD’s latest expansion plan primarily focused on bringing fiber access to parts of Danville, Kirby, Lyndon, St. Johnsbury, Walden and Wheelock, Vermont. With this latest expansion, NEK Broadband now provides fiber access to 2,100 predominantly rural Vermont residents in total, many of which only received broadband for the first time last year.

“We’re so pleased to end 2023 by giving more residents of the NEK access to high-speed internet,” Christa Shute, NEK Broadband’s Executive Director, said in a prepared statement. “We plan to bring even more residents online in early 2024.”

NEK Broadband hanging fiber

The CUD currently provides upgraded users with access to speeds that exceed those provided by cable and DSL providers, even in many more urban markets.

NEK Broadband currently offers four tiers of broadband service: symmetrical 50 megabit per second (Mbps) service for $80 a month; symmetrical 250 Mbps service for $103 a month; symmetrical 500 Mbps service for $135 a month; and a symmetrical gigabit per second (Gbps) offering for $250 a month.

Unlike many large private cable and phone companies, there are no hidden fees, usage caps, or long-term contracts with NEK pricing. As a non-profit municipality, any revenue created through broadband subscription services gets funneled back into building and repairing infrastructure and increasing affordability for local residents.

Like many broadband providers, NEK has been offering low-income residents a $30 monthly discount courtesy of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). But with Republican opposition to the program resulting in a possible ACP shutdown, NEK says it hopes to use profits from higher speed packages to keep existing ACP recipients connected.

Vermont CUDs tell Fierce Wireless they are considering the creation of a new, statewide fund to help fill the gap defunding the ACP will create, leveraging “philanthropic dollars, local donations, and digital equity dollars.”

CUD officials say they intend to expand access into parts of Barnet, Burke, Concord, Danville, East Haven, Groton, Hardwick, Lunenburg, Lyndon, Peacham, Ryegate, Sutton, Walden, and Waterford in 2024. Locals are urged to visit the NEK website to check if their address is included in the expansion and pre-order service.

A significant amount of NEK’s project has been funded by a variety of state and federal grants administered by the Vermont Community Broadband Board.  

Vermont’s broadband policy leaders have fully embrace CUDs as the primary avenue by which they hope to bridge the state’s long standing digital divide, leveraging federal funding made possible by both the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and now BEAD grants made possible by the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).  

Roughly 85 percent of municipalities and 90 percent of underserved locations in Vermont currently fall within a CUD, and the collaborations are helping fund deployments many municipalities would find financially and logistically impossible to accomplish alone.

Below watch a short video NEK Broadband produced about why and how the CUD is bringing fiber connectivity to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont 

Remote video URL

Inline image of NEK fiber deployment courtesty of NEK Broadband