It’s no surprise that a few new regional fiber networks are sprouting up, courtesy of the broadband stimulus program. Middle mile broadband capacity improvement is a major focus of the program, especially with NTIA and its BTOP program.
The latest example comes to us from Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN) subsidiary Sovernet Communications. Sovernet intends to build, own, maintain, and operate a 773 mile fiber-optic middle mile network in southern, central, and northeastern Vermont. The new network will be called Vermont FiberConnect, and “will connect over 340 community institutions including State owned buildings and all public K-12 schools and libraries that have elected to participate in the project. It will also be capable of connecting healthcare institutions, state and community colleges, and cellular towers.” The $47 million project ($33.6 million from the stimulus program) will connect 9 out of 14 of Vermont’s counties and over 85 communities.
ATN is no stranger to middle mile broadband projects funded by the stimulus program. Independent Optical Networks (ION), another subsidiary majority owned by Sovernet (minority owned by several independent phone companies), received similar funding from the first round of the stimulus program to continue its build of a middle mile fiber network in New York State. That $49 million project ($39.7 million from the stimulus program) will help add 1,300 miles of additional fiber-optic facilities to their existing 2,200 route-mile regional fiber network.
With a little more than half of the broadband stimulus program’s $7.2 billion remaining to be awarded, we should continue to see significant regional fiber network funding, with some interesting competitive implications.