Two Vermont Communication Union Districts (CUDs) Join Forces to Forge a Promising Path Forward with Unique Fiber Broadband Model
Northwest FiberworX (a CUD with 21 member communities) and Lamoille FiberNet (a CUD with 10 member communities) are formalizing plans together to build, own, and maintain an “open-access” fiber network that can host multiple ISPs (Internet Service Providers). When construction is finalized, the CUDs intend to universally serve every on-grid home & business. The network will create a marketplace for retail ISPs, telehealth providers, mobile providers, enterprises, schools, towns, and other entities.
“We believe we have a model for success. There are many moving parts and hurdles ahead, but with support from the Vermont Community Broadband Board and CUD leadership, we’re committed to our mission of bringing affordable and reliable access to all in our communities,” said Sean Kio, Executive Director of Northwest FiberworX.
The State of Vermont has committed over 300 million dollars to accelerate community efforts that advance the State’s goal of achieving universal access to reliable, high-quality, affordable, fixed broadband achieving speeds of at least 100 Mbps symmetrical. A combination of State, Federal, and private funding will be used to advance the CUD’s infrastructure project.
“By joining forces, the CUDs represent a larger population which improves economic efficiencies working with broadband consultants, service providers, and network operations vendors,” said Val Davis, Executive Director of Lamoille FiberNet.
The CUDs are excited to be in advanced discussions with what would be the network’s first retail ISP, Google Fiber. Google Fiber is a fiber broadband internet service currently deployed in 18 metro areas across the US, notable for its high speed (up to 2 Gig) and highly rated customer experience. “These CUDs are committed to bringing fiber internet service to every home and business in their districts – in one of the most rural states in the country – and we’re thrilled to be in discussions with them about how Google Fiber can help make that happen,” said David Finn, Google Fiber’s Director of Corporate Development. “We hope this project will turn out to be an example for many other communities who need fast, reliable internet.”
FIBER INSTALLER TRAINING PROGRAM
This four-day course includes one day of classroom learning and three days of hands-on labs exercises focused on specific fiber optic outside plant disciplines. Developed as the “next level” of training, this class teaches more advanced knowledge and skills to students that have already had formal introductory classes or several years of experience working with fiber optics. The course material is designed for advancing a technician’s fiber installation skills and technology knowledge. This includes introductory content for FTTx and xWDM systems as well as OSP skills like emergency restoration and fiber characterization.
Certifications and Credits:
•ETA Fiber Optics Technician—Outside Plant(FOT-OSP) Certification
•BICSI Continuing Education Credits
•Light Brigade Certificate of Completion
WHEN: March 15-18, 2022M-TH, 8:00AM–5:00PM
WHERE: Vermont Tech - JUDD HallRandolph Center, VT
Milton votes to join Northwest Fiberworx, first municipality in Chittenden County for the Communications Union District
Poles along East Rd. in Milton head towards Duffy Rd. Town Manager Don Turner said this area in Milton is one of the most affected by poor broadband access. Turner said this area would require Comcast go over or under the railroad "which is almost impossible."
— Alek Fleury, Milton Independent (12-7-2021)
The Milton selectboard opted to join 23 other municipalities at Northwest Fiberworx (NWFX), the relatively new and quickly growing Communications Union District (CUD) covering the northwest corner of Vermont.
At its Dec. 7 meeting, the town selectboard approved a motion to accept a resolution, officially joining Northwest Fiberworx with the goal of better broadband access for all Milton addresses, adding 26,000 premises to NWFX.
Formed in August 2020, NWFX is the state’s youngest CUD. Milton is the first community joining NWFX in Chittenden County.
Right now the NWFX is in a planning stage, having just received two blocks of grant funding from the Vermont Community Broadband Board totalling around $1.2 million. It is hiring additional staff and conducting pole studies, which will gather data on the area’s utility poles and identify where there are gaps in information, said NWFX director Sean Kio in a Dec. 1 interview.
Kio said adding communities helps out with affordability for design, engineering and the overall cost of building the infrastructure and constructing the network.
Talk about joining the CUD began with a brief discussion several months ago and was shelved because of various concerns over who would bear the cost of the infrastructure, said Town Manager Don Turner at the selectboard’s Nov. 29 special meeting.
The conversation was rekindled prior to Nov. 29 when Kio called Turner and addressed these financial concerns, Turner said.
A memo shared with the selectboard for their Nov. 29 meeting provided by Kio, lays out that joining a CUD comes at no direct cost to the taxpayer or municipality and that by state statute, membership in a CUD poses no financial risk to a municipality or individual taxpayer.
NWFX has quickly been gaining more legitimacy in recent months, going from an entirely volunteer board and staff to a working organization with a budget and director as recent as late October.
Even with the Milton addition, around a third of premises with NWFX remain underserved, said Kio.
Kio said communities that are new members like Swanton, St. Albans and Milton, are all primarily served by cable, but not a single address in these communities have the ability to download at the minimum speed goal set by NWFX (100 Mbps).
“The reason it's important,” said Turner at the board’s Nov. 29 meeting, “is that there are hundreds of millions of dollars coming into Vermont. We have about 2,300 in Milton that don’t have access to high speed internet.”
Turner said the benefits of joining the CUD are almost too good to be true.
As part of agreeing to join, the town selectboard appointed two Milton residents to serve as interim representatives for the town at NWFX — engineer Erik Breiland as the main representative with Town Treasurer John Gifford as the alternate.
They were signed on as interim representatives as the town fields interest in serving from other Milton residents.
Northwest Communications Union District Adopts New Name; Mission Remains The Same
St. Albans, VT. – December 1, 2021 – The Northwest Communications Union District (NWCUD) is now operating under Northwest Fiberworx (NWFX), and the new website URL is nwfiberworx.com.
“The new name better reflects what we’re all about,” says Sean Kio, NWFX Executive Director. “Most Vermonters don’t know what a ‘Communications Union District’ is, and ‘fiber works’ is more meaningful to our community members,” adds Kio.
Northwest Fiberworx is quickly becoming a leader in bringing an open-access fiber-optic network to Northwestern Vermont. NWFX recently hired a full-time Executive Director (Sean Kio of Enosburgh); was awarded $1,275,028 from the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) for pre-construction planning and network design; is working with National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative to develop the organization’s business plan; and is actively looking to expand the employee roster with a full-time Operations Project Manager, and part-time Administrative Assistant.
“We’re working hard to build a team and construct a great network that is affordable, provides universal access, and built for tomorrow,” states Kio.
About Northwest Fiberworx (nwfiberworx.com)
The mission of NWFX (formerly NWCUD) is to leverage partnerships and procure funding to connect Northwestern Vermont via Open Access Fiber to ensure opportunity for all homes and businesses in our region. Currently, the following towns and villages are members: Alburgh, Bakersfield, Berkshire, Enosburgh, Fairfax, Fairfield, Georgia, Highgate, Isle La Motte, Montgomery, North Hero, Richford, Saint Albans, Sheldon, Swanton, Village of Alburgh, Village of Enosburg Falls, and Village of Swanton.
St. Albans, VT. – October 18, 2021 – Northwest Communications Union District (NWCUD) hired Sean Kio as the organization’s Executive Director.
“Sean’s efforts were critical to forming the CUD and his volunteer work as our initial chair instrumental in building membership and launching our preconstruction programs. Sean’s extensive experience in broadband, community engagement, and grant management will enable the NWCUD to build a great team and execute on our mission of bringing broadband internet access to everyone in our communities,” said Everett McGinley Chairman of the NWCUD
Kio’s role is responsible for the overall leadership and developing the strategy to finance and build an open-access Fiber to the Premises network with universal connection in our service area, maintaining an emphasis on network performance, reliability, and quality of service.
A US Air Force veteran with a degree in Business Administration specializing in Marketing from Saint Leo University, Kio is a resident of Enosburgh. Kio was one of the founding members and served as Chairman of the NWCUD Governing Board founded in August 2020. His background reflects extensive experience in business and community organizations. He has spent several years in the telecommunication industry, most recently as Burlington Telecom’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations.
When "Good Enough" Isn't — Part 1/4
My broadband connection is good enough for me, so why should I care?
Many of your fellow residents have no effective and/or affordable internet option. Without adequate internet access, your neighbors and the town as a whole suffer: home values and economic development are depressed, educational opportunities are limited, and the town is unattractive to young families. Internet access is a modern utility, and lack of broadband is a serious hardship, similar to the lack of electricity or telephone of 100 years ago. So much of our lives (shopping, education, communications, entertainment, work, healthcare, and more) are rapidly evolving to utilize and even depend on broadband access that is readily available to most people in the industrialized world. Your support for broadband helps your neighbors who are not as fortunate as you, and supports the future vitality of the town as a whole.
A "practical" answer to the digital divide: Rep. Peter Welch hears from communications districts
ENOSBURGH, Vt. (WCAX) - During the pandemic, many people rely on the internet for telemedicine, work or schools. But as many Vermonters know, connecting to the internet isn't easy in some parts of the state. Our Elissa Borden discovered that might change for parts of Franklin and Grand Isle counties.
Right now, studies show that 11% of homes in Enosburgh have poor connectivity, meaning they fall below the FCC standard of 25 to 30 megabits per second. But in a few years, that number may be as low as 3%.
With the newly formed Northwest Vermont Communications Union District, towns can borrow money or apply for grants and loans to install fiber network connections to areas in need. Residents in Enosburgh, Georgia, Fairfax and Montgomery may soon see a difference in their connections.
GEORGIA – Georgia officials have agreed to join the southern Franklin County town into the Northwest Vermont communications union district.
The town’s selectboard voted unanimously last week to join Georgia into the district, appointing the town’s administrator Amber Baker as the town’s representative with selectperson Tara Wright serving as a possible substitute.