Waterford is 1st town on track to complete NEK Broadband installation

Waterford will be the first town in the NEK Broadband region to have almost all of its homes covered next year.
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 8:42 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 6, 2022 at 1:33 PM EDT
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WATERFORD, Vt. (WCAX) - Waterford will be the first town in the NEK Broadband region to have almost all of its homes covered next year.

NEK Broadband is one of nine communication union districts working throughout the state to get Vermonters connected to adequate broadband.

NEK Broadband is working to bring high-speed internet to 90% of the towns in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom over the next two years.

NEK Broadband is found in parts of Concord and Lunenburg, as well, but Waterford will be the first town to have 90% of its homes covered by the spring.

Waterford is a small town that has what you need, except for adequate broadband.

“It’s frustrating to know that other people have what they need to get it done. And then here we are not with that,” said Leslie Mulcahy, the innkeeper at the popular Rabbit Hill Inn.

Mulcahy says to get adequate broadband to service their 19 rooms that usually are using three or more devices at a time, they took an extra step and inserted dedicated T1 lines into their building.

“We needed something more and we needed something dependable and it’s very expensive, and it’s not even a smidge more than what people are getting in highly populated areas,” said Mulcahy.

In Waterford, only 210 out of 669 addresses have access to high-speed internet, mostly through cable. NEK Broadband is under construction right now to change that and will be giving 403 addresses the ability to opt into broadband.

“For some people, it will just simply mean Netflix will download faster, for other people it will be an opportunity for home businesses. It’ll be an educational opportunity, will be an opportunity for medical services to be delivered electronically,” said William Piper, NEK Broadband’s Waterford representative.

Piper and select board member Michael Barrett note that broadband is even lacking on main roads and for services like the fire department.

The construction is funded by grants from NEK Broadband and thousands of dollars of American Rescue Plan Act money granted to the town of Waterford.

Crews began working in Waterford in the summer and will go through the winter to finish by spring.

While Tony McCleary of the National Rural Telecom Corporation says the deadline won’t be affected, they do need more workers and fiber has a long lead time.

“Yeah. So we’re slated to be ready. We’ll have all of it in by then,” said McCleary.

McCleary says they’ll have as many as 12 crews working come the spring as they expand construction into NEK towns like Barnet.

“This is not a done-and-over project. You know, this is really just a big part of the initial build-out to help us identify future needs of our community members because that’s what it’s all about,” Waterford Selectboard Member Michael Barrett said.

And community members and business owners like Mulcahy say they are excited for what’s to come.

“I think broadband will be a huge-- just in lifestyle. It’s not a luxury. It’s more of a utility now,” Mulcahy said.

NEK Broadband says crews are constructing around 20 miles per month

Construction will continue on to Barnet, Kirby, St. Johnsbury, Concord and Lunenburg.