The build-out of a fiber-optic broadband network in central Vermont should be greatly expedited by $9 million in long-term financing.
ECFiber’s growth has been steady but slow since it was established by a vote of residents in member communities in 2008. Much of its expansion to this point has been fueled by relatively small investments from subscribers and other supporters.
ECFiber District Chair Irv Thomae says some of $9 million will be used to refinance debt, but it will also be used to significantly increase the availability of broadband service.
By the end of 2017, Thomae says ECFiber will provide virtually universal high-speed fiber optic broadband service to six communities: Barnard, Thetford, Strafford, West Windsor, Pomfret and Pittsfield.
There are 4,583 addresses in the six towns. The towns were chosen because a higher percentage of their residents said they would sign up for ECFiber service, compared to other towns in ECFiber’s service area.
The build-out will expand the network of fiber used to 700 miles. ECFiber estimates 1,400 miles will be needed to fully serve all 24 member communities, a goal it hopes to reach by 2019.
“It will take some form of additional long-term financing” to achieve that goal, says Thomae.
Thomae says ECFiber has paid off 325 promissory notes to investors who have supported it in the past. In light of the infusion of long-term capital, ECFiber is no longer raising funds through small investments.
“We are not seeking that kind of investment at the present time. We’re going to digest this process and see where we stand,” says Thomae.
He says the working capital will also help the company grow in a more deliberate way.
ECFiber is a telecommunications district, which is owned by members, but state law prohibits it from using tax money.
It currently has just over 1,200 customers.