Forgotten Kingdom recalled

Once again the efforts to build out internet services to Vermont’s Forgotten Kingdom is in the news. 
For those who don’t recall the term or are unaware of it, “Forgotten Kingdom” was coined by state senator Dick Sears to describe the very rural communities being left behind by the internet revolution.   It was a play on Vermont’s well-known Northeast Kingdom. That rural region in the corner of the state bordered by New Hampshire and Quebec has long been considered to be lagging in development and services when compared to other parts of Vermont.
Sears first used Forgotten Kingdom two decades ago. The fact that there are still areas across Vermont that have woefully inadequate internet access, if any at all, bears witness to the accuracy and longevity of that term. It points out the difficulty of delivering the promise held by the internet to each and every household in the state. 
A week ago Lauren Harkawik reported on the efforts of a newly-branded commercial internet provider, Fidium Fiber, to expand the optical fiber internet network in Dover and Wilmington. 
This week Harkawik is reporting on the efforts of DVFiber, a quasi-municipal entity formed two years ago, to reach underserved areas of the valley and broader region.  
So, does this flurry of activity mean the Forgotten Kingdom is finally being addressed?  Will the promise of internet access to every rural home in the region finally become reality? 
The short answer is “We hope so.”
We’ve said for a number of years now that the DVFiber model is the most likely one to break the stigma of the Forgotten Kingdom.  That’s because the underlying structure of DVFiber, which is the operating name of the Deerfield Valley Communications Union District, is one that is not based on a commercial, for-profit model. It exists solely for the purpose of delivering high-speed internet to the woefully underserved nooks and crannies of the region. It has government money behind it and has one simple mission: to deliver where commercial vendors cannot or will not. Those efforts include many of the back roads and very rural areas of Halifax, Whitingham, Readsboro, Marlboro, Wardsboro, and other communities in southern Vermont. 
With that mission in mind, and with money and momentum behind it, DVFiber seems like the best bet to finally vanquish the Kingdom.
For those who have been watching the evolution of the internet in rural Vermont, including the many failed promises of the past two decades, the more interesting development is the rush by Fidium to string fiber optic cable in Wilmington and Dover.  It seems as though an army of bucket trucks has been deployed along every road in the two towns, stringing countless coils of thick, black, fiber optic cable. For many it is a welcome sight, for sure. 
One of the major reasons for the legislation that created the many CUDs across the state was the failure of commercial, for-profit providers to deliver on the last mile to so many rural areas. The common explanation was the commercial providers cherry-picked the more lucrative, more population-dense areas where a profitable return on investment could be achieved. 
With Fidium, that may be the case once again. Fidium, like DVFiber, is receiving government money. The money comes from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which allocates money to establish rural fiber internet service. According to Fidium’s website, “We received a part of those funds at auction to provide fiber optic infrastructure to 300,000 homes in five states.” That includes Vermont, but according to their own officials, won’t include many of the most underserved areas of the region. 
Instead Fidium will be the third provider to string and operate fiber lines along much of the Route 100 corridor of Wilmington and Dover. They will join Duncan Cable and FirstLight (formerly SoverNet) in selling high-speed internet services, and their lines will be strung on many of the same poles. That would appear to bolster those long-standing claims of commercial providers avoiding the most rural and least revenue-generating areas. 
To Fidium’s credit, they are stringing fiber lines in neighborhoods not currently served, including East Dover and the more remote addresses of Wilmington. So they are meeting their requirements under the federal funding to some degree.  But that’s small consolation to homeowners left wondering when they will finally have the promises of the high-speed internet highway at their doorsteps. 
When will the Forgotten Kingdom finally be a thing of the past? Thanks in large part to the CUD model, its demise is nearer than anytime in a decade or more.  But it still persists, and until every last mile of Vermont has high speed access, the Forgotten Kingdom cannot be forgotten about.  

The Deerfield Valley News

797 VT Route 100 North
Wilmington, VT 05363

Phone: 802-464-3388
Fax: 802-464-7255

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