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The East Central Vermont Community Fiber-Optic Network (ECFiber) recently connected its 600th customer. The network continues to connect to additional homes and businesses, recently reaching Royalton. According to the Valley News, the network will extend to over 200 miles by the end of 2014, passing more than 2,000 homes and businesses.
The story notes that the Vermont Telecom Authority's Orange County Fiber Connector, a dark fiber project running through Orange and Windsor Counties, facilitated the expansion. From the article:
“In addition to offering us the possibility to connect more than 500 homes and businesses along the route, the (Orange County connector) will enable the interconnection of our remote hubs, allowing us to purchase more bandwidth and offer higher throughput to our subscribers,” said Stan Williams, chief financial officer and interim chief executive officer of ValleyNet, the Vermont nonprofit charged with operating ECFiber.
ECFiber sells tax-exempt promissory notes to local investors to fund the network. The coalition of communities that participate in the network now number 24. The Valley News also reports that the new CEO for ValleyNet will be Tom Lyons, formerly of Sovernet. Lyons replaces Tim Nulty, who recently retired.
Leslie Nulty, one of the network's champions, talked with Chris in episode 9 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. She described the ECFiber model and shared the history of the network.
Kentucky Municipal Utilities Association Passes Resolution Favoring Local Control in Telecommunications
We recently reported that local leaders in Chanute and Westminster had passed resolutions supporting the FCC as it considers its authority. The Kentucky Municipal Utilities Association (KMUA) passed a similar resolution on February 28th.
KMUA members include 45 city-owned utilities including electricity, water, wastewater, natural gas, and telecommunications services. Members include places our readers are familiar with - Franklin, Glasgow, and Russellville - in addition to a lengthy list of other Kentucky communities.
The KMUA is publicly offering its support to the recent court decision finding that the FCC has the authority to remove or prevent state barriers.
The resolution reflects one of the KMUA credos, as listed on their website:
KMUA opposes any action, legislative or administrative, which would curb, limit, or remove local control of the operations of municipal utilities from their citizen owners.
We expect to see more resolutions like this as communities decide to go on record. The language is very similar to the Chanute and Westminster resolutions. We have made the document available below.
Another great video from Australia makes many salient points regarding the debate over their national broadband network. One key point to take away is that it is possible to talk to non-technical normal people about this subject without overwhelming them or boring them.
Another is that FTTN = fiber to the nowhere, not fiber to the node.
When it comes to building infrastructure, we should make smart long term investments. That said, we are strongly supportive of locally owned, fiber networks. Local ownership trumps national ownership because proximity lends itself to accountability.
Good news for Vermonters who want connectivity from the East Central Vermont Fiber Optic Network (ECFiber). The community owned network recently raised another $430,000 from local investors who purchased tax-exempt promissory notes. As a result, the nonprofit can now expand another 20 miles. Approximately 100 more households and businesses will soon have access.
Twenty-three towns belong to the consortium; Montpelier is the largest. The network currently serves 325 customers via 50 miles of fiber. Warren Johnston reports in the Valley News:
“Before the fall, we’ll have people connected in Chelsea, Vershire, Thetford, Tunbridge, Royalton and Sharon, and a lot of the people in Strafford, along with service to several neighborhoods in Norwich, [ECFiber Chariman Irv Thomas] said.
The nonprofit has raised about $3.5 million through grants and investment loans from community members.
Although residents wanting service are not required to loan money to ECFiber, the tax-free notes promise a good return for investors, ranging from 5.3 percent to 7.65 percent, depending on the type of note.
“It’s just wonderful. It’s like going from the horse-and-buggy age to the jet age overnight,” said Ward, who got the service on April 23. “I’ll always remember the date. It’s made such a difference in our lives.”
The new system lets all of the firm’s five computers to be online at one time, something that the old system would not allow. Clients and lawyers now can send photographs and case files to her office, which would have crashed her previous system.
“We used to plan an hour a week to do our payroll online. Now, we can do it in a matter of minutes. It’s a tremendous savings of time,” she said. The new system also gives firm members an opportunity to keep up with online training.
According to the friend, Glenda Dillashaw, a Charter representative told her that Spain would need to find his cable box or be charged $212 for its loss.Fortunately, when Spain followed up with Charter after receiving another bill, the representative told him not to worry about it, suggesting that either Charter has an ambiguous policy to deal with it or Spain found a customer support person who's heart had not yet been crushed by soul-numbing job of being a customer support representative for a massive cable company. At least one other company has a formal policy in place for these situations:
Bright House Networks, whose service area includes hard-hit Pratt City, also expects its customers to file claims under homeowners' or renters' insurance to pay for lost or destroyed cable boxes. "That's how we normally handle it," spokesman Robert L. Smith said.Fascinatingly, an article in Michigan claims Comcast does not have a policy in place for these situations. Following recent tornados in Michigan, Comcast customers who lost their homes were given the option of paying a cancellation fee or paying a reduced "vacation" rate for a service they could not use.
Katherine Pfeiffer and Kathy Crawford soon found that residents were being told that they would be responsible for damaged or lost cable boxes and modems. Initially residents were told their accounts with Comcast would be put on “vacation” status, where a monthly fee of between $15 and $20 would be charged.Comcast is supposedly "working on a solution" for these people. The hubris of this massive companies is unreal. People who are waiting to hear if their home is repairable or has to be destroyed should not be confronted by the cable company with exorbitant fees.
Here at muninetworks.org, we continually see instances of state government preempting rights of local government to make their own decisions on broadband. It was no surprise to us to read Josh Goodman’s recent Stateline.org article, GOP Legislatures Try to Limit Local Government’s Power.
Goodman takes a look at a disturbing trend in the relationships between local and state authority; a relationship that has local government walking on eggshells. More and more local governments are now contending with their own state legislatures stripping them of specific decision-making authority. Some decisions are better made at the state level, but the concept of a micromanaging, conservative GOP legislature seems contradictory. Any fan of state floor debate, has listened to countless hours of republican legislators berating democrats for trying to overstep into local concerns. Could it be a change of heart or perhaps a very targeted way to ensure local compliance with a party agenda?
Many of these state lawmakers have accused the federal government of adopting an imperious, one-size-fits-all mentality and of subverting the rightful powers of states. At the same time, many high-profile debates in the Tennessee Capitol over the last two years — on topics such as local wage rules and local non-discrimination rules, among others — have centered on the state trying to limit the power of localities to make decisions for themselves.
Rather than take a diplomatic and collaborative approach, these lawmakers prefer to nullify local authority rather than risk a community decision with which they would disagree.
ECFiber is using an innovative funding method to extend its network, supported by local citizens who lend funds that enable build-out to local neighborhoods within and across member towns. Citizens who invest as little as $2500 allow ECFiber to reach all households along designated routes. ECFiber determines where it will build by choosing routes that reach the greatest number of unserved businesses and households, which are then connected to ECFiber’s state-of-the-art fiber-optic service.These people are literally investing in themselves. ECFiber is an InterLocal Contract with a Governing Board composed of a representiative from each member town (of which there are 23). Investors are purchasing tax exempt 15 year promissory notes that effectively earn 6% interest (due to the one year holiday from interest and principal). They have raised $340,000 in this round of financing, which will allow the network to pass 60-65% of Barnard's 950 residents.