Telecompetitor has been closely following Vermont’s unique approach to rural broadband deployments known as communications union districts (CUDs) and recently there were a couple of developments on that front.

Northwest Fiberworx (NWFX) received $20.2 million in buildout funding from the Vermont Community Broadband Board. Northwest Fiberworx is the broadband network owned by a communications union district (CUD) comprised of 22 Vermont towns.

The other development involves two additional CUDs — NEK Broadband and CVFiber — which have made plans to merge.

NWFX, NEK and CVFiber are among 10 CUDs statewide that self-organized for the specific purpose of obtaining better broadband. CUDs can raise money through grants, debt, and donations but not through taxes.

In most cases, the CUD owns the infrastructure that is deployed. That is the case with NWFX, which will build, own, and maintain the fiber broadband open access network.

In a press release about the new funding, NWFX’s network operations manager noted that the CUD will partner with Great Works Internet (GWI) on the project. The partners previously said that GWI will design and manage the operation of the network on NWFX’s behalf and will lease it from NWFX.

The funding that NWFX will receive came through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and will be used to begin Phase 1 of the CUD’s network buildout. It is expected to reach over 3,800 unserved and underserved locations.

Merger Plans

The goal of the planned NEK Broadband/CVFiber merger is to “be better able to support digital equity, economic growth and community development across the Northeast Kingdom and Central Vermont,” according to a press release.

The two CUDs propose to operate under a new name, Northeast Central Broadband.

In the release, CVFiber said that it has a partnership with Waitsfield & Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT), which operates the network and interacts with customers. NEK previously announced a similar partnership with WCVT. WCVT can trace its roots back over 100 years to when it was founded as a rural telephone company.

CVFiber is comprised of 20 central Vermont communities. NEK Broadband apparently has 51 communities, as the release notes that after the proposed merger, Northeast Central Broadband would include 71 communities.

A public hearing about the proposed merger is scheduled for July 16. The merger requires approval by governing boards, which the partners hope to obtain around August 15. 

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