consolidated

Officials from Consolidated Communications, the Southwest Vermont Communications United District, the Bennington County Regional Commission, state Sens. Dick Sears and Brian Campion, mark the first home connection to a new fiber internet service at the home of Starr Volkmer, of Bennington, center.

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BENNINGTON — The delivery of high-speed internet service to Starr Volkmer of Bennington was celebrated Thursday afternoon by the Southern Vermont Communication Union District and its partner in expanding service throughout the county, Consolidated Communications.

Volkmer, of Anthony Drive, was the first to apply for the new Consolidated internet service in phase one of a network expansion project, which will allow service to unserved and underserved households in Bennington, Woodford, most of Shaftsbury, and Glastenbury.

The work is far ahead of schedule, said Eric Hatch, chairman of the Communication Union District, an intermunicipal entity involving 14 Bennington County towns.

He said phase two of the work involves expansion of a high-speed network to Dorset, Landgrove, Londonderry, Manchester, Peru, Pownal and Rupert.

In switching from her current internet provider, Volkmer will see her monthly internet fee reduced by nearly half and get faster service, Hatch said.

The homeowner said she was anxious to try the just-installed service, which she will use in part to stream television programming.

‘REALLY LINED UP’

“Things really lined up under this partnership,” Hatch said. “If we had done it alone, or with any other partner, we could not be talking about getting it done in about two years.”

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He has said that before the partnership and an influx of pandemic relief and other funding, the Communication Union District was considering five- to 15-year plans to get high-speed internet to all properties in the area.

Consolidated has been working on fiber infrastructure to make Fidium Fiber’s multi-gigabit, all-fiber service available to order for 12,000 homes in Bennington County, including 400 homes that previously did not have access to high-speed internet, according to a news release from the company.

“I’m really excited for folks in Bennington County to experience Fidium Fiber internet,” said Erik Garr, president of consumer and small business at Consolidated. “I’m so proud of this project and how quickly our teams were able to deliver a truly superior internet experience. It illustrates the power of partnership between providers and CUDs. Working together, we can do incredible things for our communities.”

The Communication Union District strives to extend high-speed internet to hard-to-connect areas, seeking grants, partnerships and other funding. Communication union districts are intended to work with broadband providers to close the “last mile” gap by providing reliable, affordable broadband service to the roughly one-third of Vermonters who lack reliable access.

In 2019, the Legislature passed a rural broadband bill that gave towns tools needed to launch communication union districts.

“For both Senator [Dick Sears] and myself this is an exciting next step. It has been a long time coming and we appreciate everybody that’s been involved,” said Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, who attended the afternoon event at Volkmer’s home along with Sears, D-Bennington.

“From the members who volunteer their time to the CUD and families like Starr Volkmer, this is great,” Campion said.

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com

Reporter/editor

Jim Therrien reports for the three Vermont News and Media newspapers in Southern Vermont. He previously worked as a reporter and editor at the Berkshire Eagle, the Bennington Banner, the Springfield Republican, and the former North Adams Transcript.


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