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 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.
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.
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.
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.
2011 – 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.
2015 – This locally funded effort covered over 300 miles of roads and served over 1,500 customers by 2015.
2016 – The public capital markets took notice and ECFiber successfully tapped the municipal revenue bond market for $14.5M in revenue bonds. All original “crowd financing” investors were repaid with interest in 2016 and 2017.
2017 – ECFiber raises another $8.5M and all original “crowd financing” investors were repaid with interest. 2,000th customer.
2018 – ECFiber raises another $8M. 3,000th customer.
2019 – ValleyNet begins design of LymeFiber network. ECFiber raises another $10M. 4,000th customer, 1,000 network miles.
2017 – ECFiber raised another $8.5M and all original “crowd financing” investors were repaid with interest. 2,000th customer.
2018 – ECFiber raised another $8M. 3,000th customer.
2019 – ValleyNet designed LymeFiber network. ECFiber raised another $10M. 4,000th customer, 1,000 network miles.
2020 – ValleyNet finished LymeFiber construction and began connecting customers in Lyme. ECFiber raised $12M, increased its network to 1,200 miles, connected its 5,000th customer, and added 8 member towns for a total membership of 31.
ECFiber’s success in providing universal regional FTTH coverage was recognized by the VT legislature which passed legislation increasing its support for Communications Union Districts https://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2020/Docs/ACTS/ACT079/ACT079%20As%20Enacted.pdf.
2021 – ValleyNet expects to finish all 1,400 unserved miles in ECFiber’s 23 original member towns and begin construction in new member towns as well as served areas of Hartford.