Consolidated is “donut-holing” for their own gain

To the Editor,
Last week’s Deerfield Valley News front page heralded the build out of fiber by Consolidated in Wilmington and Dover. The story also prompted a number of valley residents not in Wilmington and Dover to reach out to me with concern. Folks in towns like Whitingham, Searsburg, and Wardsboro wrote to me to ask how this could be fair when they themselves have such unreliable telephone and DSL service from Consolidated in their rural towns. 
What Consolidated is doing is overbuilding the small local cable company in Wilmington and Dover. That cable company has generally served the most populated areas in Wilmington and Dover, including most of the densely built second homes and condos. These are the easiest and least expensive addresses to build to and to repair and maintain. The build strategy is called donut-holing, and it’s when the cable company or internet service provider builds the village or biggest town and not the surrounding hills or rural towns. They do this to maximize profit and minimize effort. They can still do this because the federal government largely preempts states from regulating cable companies or internet service providers. The federal government allows this at least in part because of the literally hundreds of millions of dollars the national telecommunications companies spend on lobbyists to prevent community fiber buildout, net neutrality and privacy legislation from being enacted and presently to prevent the Federal Communications Commision from seating its fifth member.
Our neighbors in Readsboro sounded the alarm on how dangerous Consolidated’s old landline telephone and deteriorating DSL were becoming back in 2015, providing the basis for a service quality investigation from the Department of Public Service. Their current CEO suggested to me in 2018 that Readsborians that needed to stay in touch with their healthcare providers might want to move. Even though their behavior has been putting Vermonters in danger, there has been very little we can do to make them behave differently. This donut-holing and lack of accountability has played out over and over in communities across the state. And that led to the development of Vermont’s Communications Union Districts in 2019 and the awarding of 250 million in funding for CUDs to build out fiber in 2021 and 2022. Vermont’s strategy is to treat this situation like the need for rural electrification. Everyone needs to be connected and there needs to be public accountability for maintaining those connections.
By act of our town selectboards and with support from our federal delegation, the governor, the legislature, Windham Regional and BDCC, our electric utilities, the Vermont Community Foundation, and the Northern Borders Regional Commission, your neighbors in the Deerfield Valley and surrounding towns have been working to build a CUD. They have surveyed the region, developed a business plan to provide internet service, engineered construction plans and secured a responsible operator. Your CUD is called DVFiber and you can keep track of their progress, see their plans, volunteer to help them or share their job descriptions at https://dvfiber.net. The initial leadership for this effort has come from our Deerfield Valley and our neighbors Ann Manwaring, from Wilmington; David Jones, from Halifax; Omar Smith, from Readsboro; Phil Edelstein, from Whitingham; Steven John, from Marlboro; Donna Sebastian, from Wardsboro; and TJ Sibilia, from Dover, and they have been joined by dozens of representatives from 24 Windham and Bennington County towns. DVFiber has plans to begin building out phase 1 towns this year, provided supply chain issues don’t interfere. Phase 1 towns are those with some of the most unserved and underserved addresses.
Yes, Consolidated is building out the most served parts of Wilmington and Dover by overbuilding a small local cable company that largely provides internet service to the downtowns and second home developments. Your neighbors at DVFiber will be building out to all of the unserved and underserved addresses in all of their member towns. First. 
Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover

The Deerfield Valley News

797 VT Route 100 North
Wilmington, VT 05363

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

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