Vermont FiberConnect will get $33.4 million broadband grant

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Vermont FiberConnect will get $33.4 million broadband grant

Fri, 07/02/2010 - 7:38am -- tim

The Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) and Sovernet Communications reported today that their public-private partnership, Vermont FiberConnect, will receive a $33.4 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.  The grant will allow Sovernet to develop, own, maintain, and operate a 773 mile fiber-optic middle mile network in southern, central, and northeastern Vermont.  The project will connect over 340 community anchor institutions in the project area, including State owned buildings, public safety towers and all public and private K-12 schools, public libraries and colleges that elect to participate in the project. Another $13.7 million will go to Vermont Telephone Company (STORY).
Sovernet Communications, a leading communications provider in Vermont, is the sole sub-recipient of the grant, through its Sovernet Fiber Corporation subsidiary, and will coordinate with the NTIA through the VTA.  Governor Jim Douglas and the Vermont legislature established the VTA in 2007 to find solutions to expand broadband and cellular service across the state and specifically reaching the underserved areas of the state.
This award represents significant support and partnership from the following: State of Vermont Office of the CIO, Department of Education and supervisory unions, Vermont State Colleges, Vermont Law School, Department of Public Safety, Department of Libraries (with funding partnership from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), and the New England Telehealth Consortium. 
‘This network will provide major support for the VTA’s efforts to expand broadband and cellular service throughout unserved areas of Vermont,’ said VTA Executive Director Christopher Campbell. ‘It also breaks new ground by promising to offer these community institutions tremendously abundant bandwidth at rates they can afford.’
Rich Kendall, Sovernet’s CEO added, ‘Sovernet is proud and excited to make a tangible commitment, in partnership with the VTA, State of Vermont, and the NTIA , with this construction of a state-of-the-art network that will enable expansion of affordable broadband in rural areas.  The project will offer substantial long term benefits to the people of Vermont, including greater job opportunity, stronger schools, better healthcare and increased public safety.’
David Tucker, State of Vermont CIO added, ‘This funding will benefit the citizens of Vermont not only by opening the door for a broader adoption of broadband, but will further enable the State of Vermont to make government services more readily available to our citizens electronically.’
Peter Drescher, the Education Technology Coordinator for the Vermont Department of Education added, ‘The award of this grant brings the Department of Education one step closer to meeting its goal of affordable broadband availability for 100% of the public and private schools throughout the State.’
Martha Reid, State Librarian at the Vermont Department of Libraries, agreed saying, ‘We are thrilled with this award and look forward to working with the public libraries in these communities as they develop and expand 21st century technology services to support the needs of local citizens for information, cultural enrichment, global connection and life-long learning. Our vision is to have fiber optic connectivity in all Vermont public libraries and this is a great start.’
In addition to the grant, Sovernet will invest over $11 million in the project, building a fiber-optic middle mile network, providing data transport services up to 1 Gbps to community anchor institutions, government agencies, and last mile providers throughout the project area.  Additionally, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will contribute a grant award of $400,000 to this project to build public library connections, as well as $150,000 to support on-going broadband service in libraries.  Transport services will be available to the anchor institutions at lower prices and with greater bandwidth than is commonly available in these communities, ensuring that Vermont’s technological capabilities are on par with the rest of the country. 
About Vermont Telecommunications Authority
The Vermont Telecommunications Authority was established by the Vermont General Assembly in Act 79, passed into law in June 2007.  Act 79 established a Vermont Telecommunications Authority to facilitate the establishment and delivery of mobile phone and internet access infrastructure and services for residents and businesses throughout Vermont. The authority is focused on unserved and underserved areas and an overall long term goal of broadband and mobile phone infrastructure throughout the state.
About Sovernet
Founded in 1995, Sovernet Communications provides reliable Internet and telecommunication services to residential and business customers throughout Northern New England. This Vermont company is headquartered in Bellows Falls, with facilities in Burlington and Winooski. Sovernet is committed to delivering superior customer care and total customer satisfaction, while actively supporting its local communities.  For more information, please visit www.sover.net
About NTIA's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 appropriated $7.2 billion and directed the NTIA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across the U.S., increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure and provide long-term economic benefits. The result is the NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the RUS Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP). BTOP will provide grants to fund broadband infrastructure, public computer centers and sustainable broadband adoption projects. BIP will make loans and grants for broadband infrastructure projects in rural areas. More information on these programs is available at www.broadbandusa.gov
Source: VTA July 2, 2010