A group representing 24 communities in three Vermont counties announced it entered into a memorandum of understanding with Biddeford, Maine’s Great Works Internet service provider, in partnership with Royalton ValleyNet, to provide broadband access for every home and business in his district.

DVFiber, the Deerfield Valley Communication Union District, said its board of directors unanimously approved the Memorandum of Understanding at a separate meeting Thursday.

“We are pleased to begin work together with GWI to complete this very important work,” DVFiber Board Chair Ann Manwaring said in a press release. “With this thriving partnership, the vision of providing broadband access for everyone in our district is much closer to becoming a reality. We are lucky to have funds from [federal] American Recovery Act to speed up our work. ”

The Communications Merger Circle (CUD) was formed about a month after the annual Positive City Meeting votes in Windham, Halifax, Marlboro, Stratton, Whitingham and Wilmington in March 2020. It has since expanded to include 24 cities including Brattleboro, most recently adding Brookline to its ranks. Each city is “committed to providing a reliable high-speed Internet for all residents,” the press release said.

“GWI is extremely excited to partner with DVFiber to bring a high-speed fiber optic connection to the DVFiber community, driven by the choice and ownership of community assets,” said Kerem Durag, GWI president and chief operating officer. “A reliable, strong and affordable open access network will allow the community to participate in 21st century activities such as telehealth, distance work, distance education. Participation will help create opportunities for many generations for economic development. , personal and community. “

A request for proposals brought about 12 responses from internet service providers, said DVFiber Board Vice President Steven John at the Brattleboro Rotary Club at a remote meeting held Thursday.

He estimated that the overall project would cost about $ 50 million and would receive federal funding distributed across the state. GWI is a certified Corporation B, which the news release describes as “a designation that identifies profitable companies that use business power to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.” The company says it values ​​”open access support, network neutrality and data privacy”.

ValleyNet is said to have “a nearly 20-year history of building and operating a broadband network in the Upper Valley around the White River Crossroads.” The company works with ECFiber, Vermont’s first communications merger district, which has 30 member cities.

“There are plenty of solutions to provide powerful universal broadband access to Vermont, and I’m glad ValleyNet could be part of the solution for DVFiber,” said ValleyNet Board Chair Carol Monroe. “It is essential that we do not leave any city behind.

Our partnership with GWI in service of the southern Vermont region brings the strength and expertise of two companies that have experience in providing a reliable high quality service. “This project seeks to ensure that all facilities in the County will be able to receive a wide range of affordable, accessible, high-speed, meeting today’s needs for many years to come.”

DVFiber said work, engineering and pre-construction project are expected to start in the summer and fall with construction coming next year. The business plan of this group aims to make fiber-based internet available in unserved and poorly serviced areas by the end of 2024, a goal that GWI is committed to helping achieve.

“This partnership is a major step forward for rural Vermont,” said state republic Laura Sibilia, I-Windham-Bennington, which represents six cities in the local communications district. “Bringing high-speed internet to the village of Vermont has been a commitment of mine since I was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives. CUDs, which are special purpose municipalities, were created by the Legislature to bring 21st century internet connections to people living where commercial providers would not go. I am very proud of all the volunteers who came together to accomplish this and would like to thank lawmakers from all of our county towns for their support. “

John said the local area is attractive for people to telecommunicate and start families. His group plan calls for the CUD to be self-sustaining through user fees.

The board will check customer service and conclude a deal with a provider if he is not happy, John said. He thanked all the supporters and volunteers.