Wednesday July 3, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- Sovernet Communications has finalized a network access agreement with a New Hampshire fiber project that will allow the Vermont-based communication company to expand its service in New Hampshire from the Massachusetts border north to the Upper Valley.

Sovernet is one of the first companies to sign an agreement with the New Hampshire Fastroads project, which is a subsidiary of Monadnock Economic Development Corporation.

The New Hampshire Fastroads project used about $5.3 million in federal stimulus money, and another $2.3 million in matching investments, to build out a fiber optic network over 247 miles across 34 New Hampshire communities.

The fiber network is almost done and Sovernet is poised to become one of the first companies that will offer voice and data services to the unserved and underserved New Hampshire communities.

"It's really exciting because while we do some business in New Hampshire we have not been able to do anything to the extent that we will be able to do on this fiber network," said Sovernet Vice President of Sale and Marketing Peter Stolley. "Needs over the Internet are constantly evolving and this gives us a virtually unlimited amount of speed to get to people."

Sovernet managed a similar project to New Hampshire Fastroads in Vermont, but in Vermont Sovernet installed and manages the fiber network.

In New Hampshire Sovernet will only provide the voice and data services over the Fastroads system.

Fastroads is a wholesale open access system and other companies will compete with Sovernet for customers over the fiber network.

Similar to the Vermont model, Fastroads built the 247 miles of fiber network to connect 237 community anchor sites such as hospitals, municipal buildings, schools and libraries

Residents and businesses along that route will be able to hook up to the robust fiber network, with the hope that the system will expand as more customers just beyond the recently strung lines want to extend it that much farther to their buildings.

Along with the community anchors, New Hampshire Fastroads also built out service to about 525 residents in Rindge, N.H., and another 800 or so residents in Enfield, N.H.

New Hampshire Fastroads is a collaboration between New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, Monadnock Economic Development Authority and 42 New Hampshire towns.

"Successful economic development relies on a network of fiber capable of providing true, ubiquitous broadband for the residents and businesses of the Monadnock region," said Jack Dugan, president of Monadnock Economic Development Corporation. "After years of work to achieve this goal, Fastroads is partnering with the best service providers, such as Sovernet, to deliver on the promise of fast, affordable, and reliable access we need to reach the world from our homes and work."

The new fiber-optic communications network is capable of providing Internet access and data transport at speeds as high as 1 gigabit per second in Cheshire, Sullivan and Grafton counties.

"This strategic partnership with New Hampshire Fastroads is a natural extension of Sovernet's long established presence in the Upper Valley, southeastern Vermont and southwestern New Hampshire," said Sovernet CEO Richard Kendall. "We are eager to work with the Fastroads team, and their community anchor institutions, through this strong combination of a superior fiber network and Sovernet's full voice and data product suite."

New Hampshire Fastroads Executive Director Carole Monroe said the agreement with Sovernet marks an important milestone in the project.

Workers have been installing lines for almost a year and the project was pushed back a little due to unexpected construction delays.

Monroe said the fiber network is about 98 percent done.

"This project was done to reach the most rural and least served communities in this part of the state," Monroe said. "Up to now there has been no way to bring fiber to these homes and this is a great opportunity to get them that big broadband. We think that as more people come on board it will entice growth and allow us to expand our footprint to reach more businesses and homes.

For more information go to www.newhampshirefastroads.net.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.