ECFiber wins Vt. grant to bring fiber to Norwich, Thetford
By Sarah Brubeck
The Valley News | April 20,2013
NORWICH — ECFiber has received a nearly $170,000 grant from the Vermont Telecommunications Authority to bring broadband Internet to 17 homes in Norwich and Thetford.
ECFiber applied for the VTA grant because the state was looking for providers who could serve residents who would otherwise not receive broadband by the end of 2013, said ECFiber Chairman Irv Thomae, who lives in Norwich. Gov. Peter Shumlin has made a commitment to connect each Vermont home to broadband by the end of the year.
The $167,569 grant will allow ECFiber to connect Norwich residents on Bragg Hill Road, Cossingham Road, New Boston Road, Kerwin Hill Road and Route 132. Numerous residents on Main Street in Thetford’s Union Village will also be connected.
For each mile of fiber, it will cost ECFiber $25,000, Thomae said, which means the VTA’s grant will build roughly 6.5 miles of fiber.
ECFiber is based out of Royalton and is committed to spreading fiber-optic cable to 23 Vermont municipalities. To date, ECFiber has raised more than $3 million from investors and connected about 300 customers in Royalton, Bethel and Barnard. Thomae said he hopes that connections to Vershire residents can begin next week.
“The grant directly affects 17 addresses on these roads, but along the way to get to those specific 17 addresses, dozens of other addresses will benefit too,” Thomae said. “Having some miles that we didn’t have to borrow money to build helps us build the whole system a bit faster.”
This is the first grant that ECFiber has received from the VTA. ECFiber also plans to use the Orange County Fiber Connector, which is a 40-mile backbone for broadband Internet that will run through Chelsea, Vershire, West Fairlee, Thetford, Strafford and Sharon. The connector is being overseen by the VTA.
ECFiber has not yet connected any homes in Norwich or Thetford, Thomae, said, and the holdup has been due to lengthy utility pole licensing, which can take six months. Thomae said the organization has received pole licenses in scattered locations, but not enough to create a long string of fiber.
Thomae stressed that ECFiber is still fundraising, and its latest round will run through May 1. He hopes significant construction can begin this year in Vershire, Chelsea, Thetford, Strafford and Norwich. But Thomae couldn’t speculate when the 17 homes that will be sponsored by the grant will see a connection.
“I hate to make a promise that I can’t keep,” Thomae said.