April 13, 2021
Contact: Christine Hallquist, 802-258-0674
March marked the one-year anniversary of this grass-roots organization’s work to bring a new high-speed fiber optic internet network to the Northeast Kingdom. It’s been a busy year. Thirty-two towns joined and a governing board made up of citizen representatives was formed. The organization hired a clerk and administrator, raised $743,000 in grant funding, and completed an initial feasibility study that provides critical information to guide planning for construction projects in 2021 and beyond.
Unlike commercial internet service providers, NEK Community Broadband has a goal of making sure every home and business has access to high-speed internet, regardless of how far down a dirt road they are located. This is an ambitious goal and will take years to complete. The dedicated group of volunteers has chosen fiber optic infrastructure because it provides the fastest, most reliable internet service for the long term.
Cooperation and collaboration with existing internet providers, where possible, is critical for an efficient effort. In 2020, grant funding received by NEK Broadband was then awarded to Kingdom Fiber, making it possible for them to expand its service to customers in parts of Albany, Craftsbury, Greensboro, Hardwick, and Irasburg.
Although construction funding will be primarily through grants and low-interest loans, the fiber network must eventually generate enough income from users in order to be sustainable. Information collected from the 2020 feasibility study, as well as many other sources, is being analyzed in order to determine specific areas that are likely to have enough subscribers to become cash-flow positive within three years. Demonstrating the ability to generate revenue will put the organization in a strong position to receive additional funding and low-interest loans for continued expansion. Local taxes will never be a part of the financial structure.
Funding is in place to begin several projects in 2021. A five-year plan, which includes a detailed network design for the entire NEK, is targeted for publication late this summer. This plan will give a clearer picture of when areas in specific towns will be part of fiber cable construction and new high-speed service. For those with no or poor service today, news of NEK Community Broadband internet to their homes or businesses can’t come soon enough. The network will include hundreds of miles of roads and will take time and patience to complete.
NEK Community Broadband is committed to keeping our communities up-to-date with planning and construction progress. Go to our website, nekbroadband.org, “like” our Facebook page, nekcommunitybroadband, and watch for news in Front Porch Forum and local newspapers. Board meetings are online the second Thursday each month. The agenda includes the internet link and is posted on our website by that day.