ValleyNet Celebrates 25, 2, 42, 1000, and 4000
(25 Years, 2 Districts, facilitating over $42M of Financing for 1000 Miles of Fiber covering 4000+ Customers – to date)
12/30/19 – Royalton,VT
ValleyNet celebrated its 25th Birthday in November – our non-profit mission is to facilitate universal and effective Internet access. Our tagline is “Lux Lucet in Deserto” – A Light Shining in the Wilderness (with apologies to Dartmouth College), evoking the importance of high speed fiber Internet service to interconnect our rural communities.
In 1994 we began to provide local dial-up Internet access out of offices in the Montshire Museum using modems donated by Dartmouth. In 2006 we sold our dial-up operations and used the proceeds (as well as contributions from board members) to help build what has become the East Central Vermont Telecommunications District (“ECFiber”). Two of ValleyNet’s three founders, David Goudy and John Hawkins, enjoy the fruits of their past efforts by accessing “wicked fast” ECFiber Internet service from their homes.
BY THE NUMBERS
Over our 25 year history, our mission has benefitted from thousands of hours of community volunteer effort. Carole Monroe, ValleyNet Board Chair commented, “The outpouring of community support to further our efforts has been gratifying and it is a pleasure to work with a broad range of dedicated volunteers. We thank past and present ValleyNet boards, ECFiber Governing Boards, town broadband committees (such as Lyme CFOIL – Community-Based Fiber-Optic Internet Service for Lyme), ECFiber/LymeFiber investors, and our Internet customers for supporting our community-centered efforts to bring this essential utility to all homes and businesses.”
ValleyNet is currently the non-profit operator of 2 fiber Internet districts, ECFiber and LymeFiber, and is in discussions with several groups of towns in VT and NH to assist in their efforts to achieve universal broadband coverage without expenditure of town taxpayer funds.
Since 2008, ValleyNet has been assisting ECFiber in financing, building and operating its fiber- to-the-home network in 23 Vermont municipalities. ValleyNet and its 24 employees in Royalton plan, design, finance and operate the system under contract to ECFiber. On December 31st ECFiber, with ValleyNet’s assistance, will close on its fourth revenue bond offering since 2016, raising an additional $10M for a total of $42M. This is a substantial inflow of private investment capital to our region to fund telecommunications infrastructure in which for-profit incumbent telephone and cable corporations have been unwilling or unable to invest.
Summary of ECFiber Revenue Bond Issues
|Series||Closing Date||Principal ($M)||Longest Dated Bond||Average Rate||10 Yr Treasury Rate||Spread to 10 Yr. Treas||First Call Date|
ECFiber now has over 1,000 miles of optical fiber network and recently added its 4,000th customer. By 2021 ECFiber expects to have invested approximately $45M to cover all unserved neighborhoods in its 23 active member towns, maintain 1,400 miles of fiber-to-the-home network, and serve nearly 7,000 customers.
FUTURE EXPANSION OF UNIVERSAL FTTH BUSINESS MODEL
ValleyNet is now working to expand its universal fiber-to-the-home model in both VT and NH. Since 2017 ValleyNet is partnering with LymeFiber to provide universal coverage to Lyme, NH and is preparing to “light” the LymeFiber network next summer. ValleyNet and its partners have recently received grants from both the state of Vermont and the federal government to study the feasibility of other universal broadband projects in both VT and NH. And in 2019, the Vermont legislature drew heavily on ECFiber’s business model and passed legislation designed to promote the foundation and financing of other Communications Union Districts to help solve its rural broadband connectivity issues.
* * *
Carole Monroe, Board Chair
Stan Williams, CFO email@example.com
* * *
ValleyNet’s non-profit mission is to serve the Upper Valley by advocating for universal and effective Internet access and providing services to facilitate Internet use and increase citizen community engagement.
In 1994, the Upper Valley had an Internet problem – Internet access in the Upper Valley provided by national ISPs such as AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy required a then-expensive long distance phone call to Manchester or Burlington. The non-profit organization ValleyNet was created to fix this in 1994 using surplus dial-up modems donated by Dartmouth College housed in the Montshire Museum and, by 2006, provided local dial-up access to over 6,000 households. It also created local “listservs” (now administered by Vital Communities) that serve over 25,000 users in over 20 towns, offered web hosting/design services, helped recycle e-waste, and provided computer education programs.
By 2006, there were multiple local dial-up options in the Upper Valley and it was clear that dial- up Internet had run its course. At that time, the ValleyNet board made a difficult and controversial decision to sell its dial up accounts to SoverNet (now FirstLight) and pursue its mission via other means (see below).
(ECFiber’s mission is to build and operate a universal, open access, fiber-to-the premises networks, bringing state-of-the art connectivity to every home, business and civic institution in all of our member towns.)
In 2008 ValleyNet, using capital from the sale of its dial-up accounts as well as loans from insiders, partnered with a number of VT towns unsatisfied with their broadband service to create ECFiber (http://www.ecfiber.net/mission/), a municipally owned and controlled organization. ValleyNet has been ECFiber’s “Design/Build/Operate” partner since that time. ECFiber is managed by volunteers appointed by each member town and has no employees.
After unsuccessfully attempting to raise $90M in 2008 in one fell swoop, the partners attempted for several years to raise capital from slowly recovering public capital markets and federal stimulus. Then, using loans from insiders, a successful 20 mile pilot fiber-to-the-home network in Barnard was completed and operations began in 2011. As neighborhoods contiguous to the pilot network asked for service, the partners developed an innovative bootstrap “crowd financing” mechanism which ultimately raised $7M from over 450 local investors. This locally funded effort covered over 300 miles of roads and served over 1,500 customers by 2015.
By 2016 the public capital markets took notice and ECFiber has now successfully tapped the revenue bond market for over $42M since then. (All original “crowd financing” investors were repaid with interest in 2016 and 2017). By 2021 ECFiber expects to have invested approximately $45M to cover all 20,000 unserved premises in its 23 active member towns and to serve nearly 7,000 customers.