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Thursday, 25 August 2011

JFDI rural FTTH connects its first users.

Some things just make you cheer!

As some of you may know, I went out to the USA in January 2010 to meet projects who were doing FTTH in innovative ways, as well as in rural areas. I was privileged and honoured to be invited by Geoff Daily and Tim Nulty to the community FTTH event in Salt Lake City, hosted by Todd Marriott of Utopia, and to meet many of the people who have helped me fight for rural FTTH. Some of those people changed my life, becoming true friends in the process.

This blog post can be read at

I discovered you could buy multi-city flights which worked out far cheaper than direct flights, and was lucky enough to visit the Deep South, as well as the frozen north. That decision may be key to other choices which are now open to rural communities in the UK - more on that another time.

Actually, it was far warmer in Utah, Chicago and Denver than the UK at that point! Minus 17 when I left Cumbria. Snow and ice at Heathrow meant the first flight was cancelled with only hours to go and I had to purchase American Airline flights as British Airways did the British thing and ran scared of the snow. It was hovering around zero in the north of America! Warm and toasty ;)

Tim Nulty and I had exchanged many, many emails by this point and I couldn't wait to meet him. His project with ECFiber had become a goal: not just to visit, but to emulate. And Utopia has been on my 'must visit' list since it launched. Todd was a simply incredible host, even if he was convinced he would never get me out of that broadband bus!

The emails recently, after a lengthy 2 years where I have learnt far more about American politics, funding, municipal bonds and much more than I ever expected to, are the icing on the cake. They JFDI!! Well done ECfiber.

ECFiber Goes Live!

SOUTH ROYALTON – Having completed its beta testing, and with the Phase I project nearly complete, ECFiber began connecting its first customers today. Eight customers have been beta-testing the system for the past two weeks, getting sustained 5Mbps symmetrical service.

The Barnard General Store, one of the beta sites, has been offering the experience to customers via WI-FI, and has been finding folks on their doorstep at all hours, trying out the system.

“It’s been amazing,” says Kim Furlong, one of the store’s proprietors. “Because so much more of what we do is online, it is truly a joy to reap the reward of high-speed internet. Dial-up, and even satellite, is such a time-robber. Fiber is very different – you can be more efficient, and that is exciting. At the same time, I have some trepidation. People are going to relocate here more permanently because of what is available, and that is probably going to change the fabric of the community.”

According to Project Coordinator Leslie Nulty, 15 new accounts were opened within the first 24 hours after the doorstep delivery of information packets. Barnard Academy, another beta site, is also very excited about the service. They are planning an open house and community celebration of ECFiber’s arrival in mid-October.

Barnard was chosen for the Phase I project because of its proximity to the central office and its large number of unserved users. Pre-registrations topped 90% before the project started. Phase II, to build out the rest of the town of Barnard, is in the planning stages, with an informational meeting set for Thursday night at 7PM at the Barnard Town Hall.

ECFiber is a group of 23 towns working to build a community-owned, subscriber-funded Fiber-to-the-Home network to provide phone, television, and ultra-high-speed internet services to 100% of the homes and businesses in the member towns.


The problems faced by the project have been strikingly similar to UK project problems. Promises of the Subsidy (BDUK etc in the UK) funding led many to believe in pots of gold at the end of rainbows. Far too many think that established telcos will provide, even when faced with overwhelming evidence that such has not been the case in the last decade (read: 50+ years in America and Britain where the original telecom networks were often initiated, just as other utilities such as electricity and water, by the communities themselves).

Untold hours of passionate volunteers' lives have been wasted with the promise of public funding, just as they are now in the UK. Until finally, one day, you wake up and say: Let's JFDI! (That was one of the best emails I have had from Tim and Leslie!)

But ECFiber didn't go for an interim FiWi solution. We did talk about this at length in 2009/2010, but the figures simply do not stack up. This determination from the word go to deliver FTTH is more than just laudable - it is sustainable too. Especially for those communities that ECFiber connects. There is no need now to find yet more funding, somewhere down the road, to build a FTTH network to remote and far flung properties.

Watch this space for more news of US-UK collaboration and a colloquium in mid-September that you simply cannot afford to miss........


Cybersavvy UK said...

I'm watching the congratulations come in for this project from some of the biggest names in FTTH and broadband around the world.....

Wow! ECFiber's incredible achievement has been well and truly recognised.

chris said...

Excellent news. Well done Utopia. Power to the People.

PhilT said...

How is it funded ? Looks to be something other than a large connection fee.

Somerset said...

Price packages are not yet final, Nulty said. But the basic package of 5 megabits per second Internet and unlimited domestic phone service will be offered for about $90 per month.

In phase one, notes were sold for $4,500 a piece

Somerset said...

Would UK people pay $90/month for 5Mb?

Cybersavvy UK said...

@chris, it's EC Fiber not Utopia. But they are great too!