BARRE — If everything goes according to plan, CVFiber will have customers by the end of the year.
Central Vermont Internet, doing business as CVFiber, is a community-based high-speed internet service that was approved on Town Meeting Day last year. There are 16 towns currently signed up for the service, including Montpelier, Barre and Barre Town.
Jeremy Hansen, a member of the Berlin Select Board and computer science professor at Norwich University who has been behind the effort to wire parts of rural Vermont with fiber optic internet, said Tuesday that Woodbury has also asked to be added to the service. Woodbury’s application will be taken up at CVFiber’s next board meeting on Feb. 12.
Hansen said CVFiber is seeking an application from the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development to help create a business plan, conduct surveying and conduct a feasibility study. He said the survey will likely be finalized at the Feb. 12 meeting and sent out to member towns so CVFiber can decide where it will build first.
“We’re not going to know where to build, essentially where the customers are, until we ask,” he said.
Once the municipality decides where it wants to build first, Hansen said it will build out a small pilot project of five or six miles of fiber optic cable on poles by the end of the year.
According to draft minutes from the board’s meeting earlier this month, the municipality has about $5,000 which has come by donations. Once the service is up and running, it will be funded through subscriptions. No tax dollars can be used to start or support the municipality, according to state law.
Hansen said CVFiber hasn’t started asking residents to presubscribe yet, but that may be part of the survey or shortly after once they know who wants the service.
When Hansen was pitching the idea to towns last year, he cited benefits a community-run service provider could offer that customers can’t bank on with a for-profit internet service provider (ISP). He said for-profit ISPs have been known to collect a user’s browsing habits for sale to third parties, such as advertisers. Hansen said CVFiber would not be collecting people’s data.
Another selling point is customer service, Hansen said, because those who become customers will know when they call with an issue they will be speaking to someone local and not someone at a far-off call center.
Hansen said last year he didn’t expect service to be available until 2020.
“It’s ahead of schedule from where I thought it was going to be, honestly. Ask me again in a year. Everybody’s been very excited and we’ve gotten so much support and public good will,” Hansen said Tuesday.