Frequently Asked Questions
You have questions, we have answers. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in our FAQ section below, send us a note.
The Agreement between Maple Broadband and WCVT is considered to be a form of a public-private partnership. What does that mean?
Vermont’s recent broadband legislation and a significant amount of other grant funding is designed to foster public-private partnerships. This reflects the view that public funds invested in private entities are best managed by having the public entity (in this case, Maple Broadband) serve as the gatekeeper of those funds. In other words, one of Maple Broadband’s roles is to ensure that all funds targeted for broadband implementation are distributed equitably throughout all of Maple Broadband’s member towns.
Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom is expanding the fiber network in its regulated territory this year. Can Maple Broadband build the fiber network in its territory this year?
No, Maple Broadband must perform pre-construction tasks before the network can be built. It has already commenced its first pre-construction task. If all goes well, management believes all pre-construction tasks will be completed in 2022, and as soon as they are completed, network construction begins.
What is Maple Broadband?
Maple Broadband was formed in September 2020 and is the trade name for the Addison County Communications Union District (ACCUD). A Communications Union District (CUD) is a unique type of Vermont municipal entity governed by a Board of Delegates, each appointed by the member town’s Selectboard. As a municipal entity, we are accountable to the public. At present Maple Broadband is composed of 20 towns: Addison, Bridport, Bristol, Cornwall, Ferrisburgh, Leicester, Lincoln, Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven, Orwell, Panton, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham, Starksboro, Vergennes, Waltham, Weybridge, and Whiting.
Is Maple Broadband tax exempt?
Yes, all of Vermont’s CUDs including Maple Broadband are tax exempt.
Maple Broadband is a municipal entity. What does that mean?
Municipal entities in Vermont are independent organizations that perform municipal services on behalf of a municipality. Other types of Vermont municipal entities include Solid Waste Districts, Consolidated Sewer Districts, Emergency Medical Service Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Districts, and Consolidated Water Districts.
Since Maple Broadband is a municipal entity, does that mean that it can tax its member towns for the cost of the work in the town?
No. Neither the taxpayer nor the town is required to pay anything to Maple Broadband. Maple Broadband cannot accept funds derived from a local options tax to finance its work. Maple Broadband must fund its operations by bonds backed by the revenue derived from the project, grants, and gifts.
How can I stay informed about the progress of Maple Broadband?
We’re just getting started with many aspects of delivering Broadband to everyone in Addison County. To stay informed about our progress subscribe to our bi-monthly eNewsletter, and we’ll keep you in the loop.
How did you arrive at the name, “Maple Broadband?”
From Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer:
There’s a beautiful map of bioregions drawn by an organization dedicated to restoring ancient food traditions. State boundaries disappear and are replaced by ecological regions, defined by the leading denizens of the region, the iconic beings who shape the landscape, influence our daily lives, and feed us—both materially and spiritually. The map shows the Salmon Nation of the Pacific Northwest and the Pinyon Nation of the Southwest, among others. We in the Northeast are in the embrace of the Maple Nation.
What is broadband?
Broadband is a high-speed internet connection which allows you to enjoy everything the internet has to offer. According to the FCC, broadband is defined as having access to speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Megabits per second (Mbps) upload (referred to as 25/3Mbps). The Vermont Legislature has voted to “support measures designed to ensure that by the end of the year 2024 every…business and residential location in Vermont has infrastructure capable of delivering internet access with service that has a minimum download speed of 100Mbps and is symmetrical [an upload speed of 100Mbps].” (State Law 30 V.S.A § 202c) Maple Broadband is committed to designing and constructing a network that meets or exceeds this objective.
How much bandwidth do I need?
Netflix and other streaming companies say your internet service needs to run at least 5 Mbps for streaming high-definition shows and movies, but that’s sufficient for only one user at a time. About 18 Mbps is really the minimum speed most homes will need for streaming 4K movies and TV shows. (Netflix recommends a 25 Mbps speed for streaming 4K, while Amazon says you’ll need at least 15 Mbps for the highest-quality video.)
That means many homes with multiple active streamers will need internet service that can provide at least 50 Mbps speed.
Why do we need high-speed broadband?
Approximately 88% of Vermonters have computers with approximately 80% subscribing to the internet.
But Vermont ranks 43rd in the nation for internet transfer speeds. Existing internet service providers have not provided universal access to high-speed broadband because Vermont is too rural for those service providers. It is not cost effective for them to provide high-speed broadband service to everyone – in particular rural areas with low population densities. Maple Broadband can provide this service because, as a not-for-profit entity, we can accept lower returns-on-investment in order to achieve our goal of connecting every Vermonter, regardless of location.
When am I going to get this service?
The rollout of service to every home and business in Maple Broadband’s service area will take time and money. In the current planning, it is anticipated that the system will be built in three or four phases with service beginning for Phase I subscribers as early as 2022.
How much will this service cost?
Monthly service rates will be based on the anticipated cost to build the network. The final cost for building the network can be highly variable, depending on the amount of funds received through grants and gifts and the amount of money that must be borrowed to complete the job. The greater the amount of grants and gifts, the lesser amount of borrowing needed, ultimately resulting in lower subscription fees.
Which towns will be served first?
Initial rollout and connection will be prioritized as follows:
- Unserved and Underserved status
- Technical factors
How much will my taxes go up?
Zero. Although we are considered a municipal entity, it is illegal for us to make use of any of your local taxes. If you decide to subscribe to Maple Broadband, you will pay a one-time installation fee and a monthly fee for internet service. If you do not subscribe, there is no cost to you or your town
Do I need any special equipment installed in or on my house?
In order to provide connection to our network, Maple Broadband will install a new device called a Network Interface Device (NID) on the outside of your home or business. A device called an Optical Network Terminal (ONT) and a separate power source will also be installed inside your home or business.
Is there a map of current Communications Union Districts?
A map of current Communications Union Districts in Vermont can be viewed here.
What is a fiber network?
A fiber network consists of a fiber optic backbone cable containing thin glass fibers or strands that transmit information via pulses of light. Electronics are installed at each end of the fiber cable, converting light into electrical energy.
In order to provide users with internet connectivity, Maple Broadband will connect to the fiber backbone and then install fiber cable on existing utility poles or underground where necessary. The connection to your home is like telephone or cable television service. A fiber cable runs from the nearest utility pole to a Network Interface Device at your home or business. A smaller fiber cable would then be connected between the Network Interface Device and the Optical Network Terminal inside your home or business.
Don’t existing companies already have fiber networks?
Yes, but the service area of each is limited to denser portions of their service area, leaving most rural areas unserved.
Isn’t coaxial cable as good as fiber?
The latest coaxial cable modem network technology can greatly increase the available speeds offered by cable companies over time. However, cable networks are only available in densely settled areas. Cable companies frequently over-subscribe their infrastructure, leaving their services vulnerable to a few subscribers monopolizing bandwidth and degrading service for everyone else. You can usually get high speed download, but upload speeds via coaxial cable can be significantly slower. This is becoming increasingly more important when doing more intensive two-way communications such as video conferencing, telehealth, and distance education. Because of coaxial cable’s architecture, it is more vulnerable to hacking than other networks.
What are download and upload speeds? What is meant by symmetric connections?
Download speed refers to how many megabits of data per second it takes to download data from a server in the form of images, videos, text, files, and audio. Upload speed refers to how many megabits of data per second you can send information from your computer to another device or server on the internet. Symmetric connections exhibit the same upload speeds as download speeds. Coaxial cable, satellite dish, and DSL networks are asymmetrical and tend to offer much slower upload speeds which can negatively affect video calls, gaming, telehealth, education, and business data needs among others. Maple Broadband’s goal is to ensure that every member of our community can access internet speeds up to 100 Mbps symmetrical, or 100 Mbps upload / 100 Mbps download. These transmission speeds do not decrease during peak times which you may be experiencing with your current internet service provider.
Why not wireless?
Mobile wireless is great but does not offer comparable speeds or the reliability of fiber connections. Wireless usage is often capped, with additional charges assessed if you exceed the cap. Fixed wireless is adequate for mobile phone service but performs inconsistently, and because of Vermont’s rugged terrain may not reach every subscriber location.
What about traditional satellite internet?
Satellite internet is currently the only broadband internet option in some rural areas. It can offer download speeds ranging from 5 Mbps to 30 Mbps, depending on the plan selected. For those types of speeds, satellite can be expensive and be subject to “latency” issues, meaning that there can be a lag between requests and downloads.
The dominant rural satellite internet providers in the US today are Viasat and HughesNet. Note that satellite internet users are generally dissatisfied with their satellite service, and are often faced with data caps that are based on the amount of data used in a month.
What about Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite internet?
This is an emerging technology. Perhaps the best known at this time is Starlink which will use over 800 LEO satellites to provide internet as compared with 3-4 traditional satellite internet providers. Because these satellites are closer to earth, they will provide connections with lower latency than traditional satellite internet. Because LEO satellite service is new and only available in limited locations, the ultimate extent and quality of Starlink’s service is not yet known.
What if better technology comes along in a few years?
Fiber networks are nearly future proof. The speeds capable via fiber networks are still increasing with new electrical and optical technologies. Though fiber electronics will evolve and improve over time, fiber itself has a life measured in decades and possibly longer. While other technologies may come along, fiber networks will always be extremely fast and uniquely reliable. Fiber networks have been in service for decades, and tools for keeping them running 24/7 are mature.
I need broadband service now. What are my options?
Consumers increasingly prize their broadband internet connection, calling it the most important service they receive. This is especially true right now during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more of us are relying on our internet service at home for work, remote learning, and telehealth appointments.
The speed of broadband packages from internet service providers varies widely by provider and technology. The FCC recently changed its definition of broadband service to at least 25 Mbps, or megabits per second. (A bit is a tiny piece of data; a megabit is about 1 million of them.)
The range of broadband options are DSL, Satellite, Cable, Cellular Hotspot, and Fiber. Each option is described below.
A Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) uses the existing copper wires of local telephone companies. DSL has traditionally been one of the slowest, but also least expensive, broadband connections available. Basic DSL service typically runs from about 3 Mbps to 15 Mbps, and costs about $25 to $30 per month. While improvements in technology have boosted speeds in some cases, DSL speed decreases as the distance between the subscriber and telephone company electronics increases. DSL connections usually require a modem and filters to keep the digital signal from interfering with landline phones in the house. Like with cable- and telco-delivered internet service, qualified low-income households can receive discounted DSL service rates through the federal government’s Lifeline program. Visit Maple Broadband’s website for more information.
DSL is only available from the regulated utility that provides basic telephone service to the area in which you live. Addison County residents are served by Waitsfield & Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT) in the north, Consolidated Communications Inc (CCI) and Otelco in the south. These provider’s offer to improve your DSL service would be accomplished by building infrastructure that would move their electronics closer to your location.
Satellite broadband is currently the only broadband option in some rural areas. It can offer download speeds ranging from 5 Mbps to 30 Mbps, depending on the plan you choose. For those types of speeds, satellite can be pretty expensive (ranging from about $50 to more than $100 per month). Satellite broadband can also be subject to “latency” issues, meaning that there could be a lag between requests and downloads.
The dominant rural satellite internet providers in the US today are Viasat (formerly Exede) and HughesNet. Of the two, Viasat is the fastest satellite internet with speeds up to 100 Mbps and larger data caps that go to 300 GB. HughesNet, on the other hand, offers a better price that starts at $59.99 a month for slower speeds of 25 Mbps and smaller data caps. Note that satellite users are generally dissatisfied with existing satellite options, and users are often faced with data caps (see “Watch for Data Caps” below) that are based on the amount of data used in a month.
Starlink, another satellite-based internet provider is in the process of building its network. It will be initially composed of a “constellation” of 1,440 satellites that orbit the planet at a reduced distance from the earth. Early adopters report speeds in the range of 100 Mbps download and less than half of that upload.
Coaxial cable (Cable) companies offer multiple tiers of broadband service. Starter plans often offer speeds between 10 Mbps and 15 Mbps for $15 to $25 per month. Higher-priced plans can provide download speeds from 50 Mbps to well over 100 Mbps, typically for $50 a month or more. Gigabit plans are now also available, though they still tend to be fairly pricey.
Cable service is not heavily regulated, and more than one cable provider may in theory serve a given area. In a lightly populated region such as Addison County, Comcast is the incumbent. Cable performance is not limited by the subscriber’s distance from provider electronics. However, the cable company may be unwilling to provide you with service if you are the only subscriber in the area. It should be noted that you might be a good candidate for cable service if you live on a road that is already served by cable service. The only way to determine if you are adequately positioned to receive cable internet is by contacting the cable company and providing them with information about your service location.
If you subscribe to cell phone service, and if the cell signal at your location is strong, you could utilize a cellular hotspot which converts cellular signals to Wi-Fi and vice versa to provide Internet access for email, websites and other data transfers. Since the cellular hotspot utilizes your cell service data plan, a decision to proceed with this option might involve a more costly cell phone data plan. To learn more about cell service providers’ respective strengths where you live, visit the Vermont Public Service Department website.
Smartphones have both cellular and Wi-Fi built in, and most phones can cross-connect the two to become a portable hotspot for laptops and tablets. This is also called “tethering.”
All carriers offer portable units. Also called a “portable hotspot,” “personal hotspot,” “mobile Wi-Fi,” “mobile router,” “mobile wireless router” and “travel router,” the cellular fee is either added to the user’s existing data plan, or a new plan must be activated.
Fiber-optic broadband technology has the capability of delivering very high upload and download speeds. Maple Broadband, which is a newly formed municipal entity, will be building a fiber network to serve Addison County, with a particular focus on areas where internet access is poor or altogether missing. Our network will take several years to complete, and you are welcome to check our progress by tracking Maple Broadband’s website.
Watch for Data Caps
Some internet service providers impose limits on monthly broadband usage. Depending on your provider or plan, caps can be as low as 50 gigabytes per month, though many have raised their caps as high as 1 terabyte or more. If you’re a heavy downloader, you can either be charged overage fees, throttled (have your internet speed reduced), or simply cut off. Check the details on each provider’s website, or call and ask whether they have caps.