Residents Spearhead Broadband Initiative, Look to Fibercos

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Two Albany (NH) residents, Steve Knox and selectmen’s chair Rick Hiland, are spearheading a selectmen-approved effort they call the “Mount Washington Valley Broadband Project,” reported the Conway Daily Sun.  Knox said affordable access to high-speed fiber broadband internet is necessary infrastructure in the 21st century. The market has not yet provided this service to parts of the Mount Washington Valley because it’s not lucrative enough for companies to do so because of lack of density, reported the Sun.

Hiland said the next step is to form a committee, and the scope of the project needs to be developed based on interest. Hiland intends to visit various town selectmen’s meetings to present the case.

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Senate passed a vote last Thursday on Senate Bill 103, allowing downs to bond jointly for telecommunications upgrades. State Sen. Jeb Bradley told the Sun this will help rural towns.

Additionally, ValleyNet Inc. Board Member and broadband consultant Carole Monroe attended a recent meeting. ValleyNet is a non-profit internet service provider that operates a community-owned “telecommunications union district” called East Central Vermont Telecommunications (ECFiber). Elements of ECFiber’s business model might be applicable to the effort in the Mount Washington Valley, reported the Sun.

The structure of ECFiber is similar information to a multi-town water or sewer district. It has 24 member towns and each has the ability to have a delegate on ECFiber’s board. At present ECFiber has 3,400 customers and 725 miles of network. ECFiber has on average five or six customers per mile of fiber.

The cost to build out the lines is about $30,000 per mile, reported the Sun. Monroe explained that ECFiber got off the ground using investor funding and later took out municipal revenue bonds; no local tax dollars were used for the construction and operations.  Lessons that ECFiber said it learned are it’s better to design and engineer the network for a whole town instead of part of a town and then build it incrementally.

April 8, 2019

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