The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has revealed our need for equitable, reliable Internet connections. Prior to the appearance of COVID, a quicker Internet connection might have been considered a promising addition to our increasingly interconnected lives. Now, it is commonly understood to be a stark necessity. For education. For healthcare. For work.
In recent months, we’ve heard about the nascent efforts of the Deerfield Valley Communications Union District (DVCUD). Still in the early stages of framing up, the DVCUD now operates as DVFiber, a municipal business with a mission to provide high-speed Internet for all in the current 15-town district.
DVFiber’s values are equity, performance, affordability, reliability, and privacy. You can read more about DVFiber’s vision and principles (and learn more about the organization) at dvfiber.org.
All good, but “When?”
The question most often asked about high-speed broadband for Vernon is “When?” “When will my household have a faster, more reliable connection?”
The quick answer: Probably not as soon as any of us would like. The job of securing a reliable connection for every district household and business is complex. The current corporate-based infrastructure will not support equitable access, so it’s not a matter of ‘just hooking up.’ DVFiber is a wholly new business. New physical and business systems need to be designed and built. Proposed physical build-outs will reach least-served areas first (Vernon, taken in total, and in comparison with other towns, is fairly well served). As realistic timelines go, the soonest a connection can be made is about two years. The outside prediction for full connection throughout the district is five years. So, we will all have to be patient.
Another often-asked question is “How much will I pay?” At this point, with so much still not known, it is impossible to guess at what monthly household or business costs might be. DVFiber plans to offer a tiered pricing option (like successful models elsewhere). DVFiber, unlike certain communications corporations, is clearly well-suited to honor its commitment to equity and affordability.
How will we reach the goal?
The Windham Regional Commission played a catalytic role once the Governor signed the legislation that enabled formation of CUDs in Vermont. As part of its commitment to broadband, WRC won a grant that allowed completion of a regional survey, a feasibility study (which landed positively) and a business plan that includes an engineering plan, market analysis, sequence and schedule of work, finance models, and estimated construction costs. This plan, now handed to DVFiber, frames the work to bring fast, reliable connection to this corner of Vermont.
DVFiber itself is governed by a board (one representative from each member town) and is organized into three committees, each with task forces—all hard at work. The Vendor Committee focuses on evaluating engineering and determining best operations models; the Finance Committee focuses on establishing proper business procedures and protocols as well as developing financial support models; the Communications Committee works to expand awareness and understanding for the broader community as well as for the board itself.
To this point, all work is done by volunteers. DVFIber has no paid employees. Munson Hicks, Vernon’s representative, and Bronna Zlochiver, Vernon’s alternate representative, can attest to the incredible commitment and energy levels involved.
DVFiber is one of eight communications union districts in Vermont. Only one CUD existed prior to March 2020, more evidence that things are moving at break-neck speed. The eight have banded together into an association of mutual learning and strategy building, called the Vermont Communications Union District Association (VCUDA), and the group meets regularly and often.
Intrigued? Want to get involved?
There is an enormous amount of work to be done to secure broadband for Vernon and this part of Vermont. You can learn more by visiting dvfiber.org. Sign up for the newsletter. Contact Munson or Bronna if you have specific skills that you’d like to offer the effort. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.