Brown Out: EC Fiber Prepped For Damage Control, Finds Only Love in Woodstock

It was an odd situation at the Woodstock Selectboard meeting tonight in which we found the principals of the 23 town East-Central Vermont Fiber Network group “in the house” ready to do a reverse launch damage control campaign against what they expected would be a barrage of questions, disappointment, anger and despair.   About what, no one was quite sure.

What they got was nothing but love. “We support your efforts. Nothing has changed. Did something change? What did we miss?”

The EC Fiber damage-controllers, Irv Thomae, John Roy and Paul Haskell,  seemed a bit deflated, but pressed on to provide the Selectboard updated information to counter what they were sure was a wall of  disinformation provided by the now resigned Woodstock Representative to E-C Fiber,  Dave Brown.

It seems that we, the ignorant Villagers in need of highest-speed connectivity,  weren’t really supposed to have been “pitched” special routes that we could “buy in to” — You know like that whole Linden Hill to the Elementary School to the Library plan that had been discussed.  While the library did make an attempt at raising funds for a hub, that, too went away. And yes, there is — or was — some 165K in committed funds from Woodstock residents supporting a fiber-optic project.

But, then, thanks to some research done by Municipal Manager Phil Swanson, it was discovered that due to our grand-daddy philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller’s careful burying of the power, electric and cable lines into Woodstock Village, it might now cost a prohibitive 60K to get fiber optic down below and into the mix over a quarter-mile area. Without that fiber link from South Pomfret, bye-bye big ideas. Which is mostly where things stand tonight.

And finally, the truth came out. E-C Fiber’s Irv Thomae, of Norwich, said what we haven’t heard before: If you already have Comcast, we’re not that interested in you (the well-to-do, kinda’ okay connected folks of Woodstock).

Well, Thomae emphasized he didn’t really mean it that way. But, again, what we kinda’ have figured, this whole project — we get it, a good one — is to provide those who don’t have any internet access with “something”. It just happens that “something” is the best thing going.  And since the mission of  EC Fiber is to provide to those who are without, frankly we shouldn’t hold our breaths for some way to get out from the slow, glitchy clutches of  DSL or the as best as it gets Comcast Cable.

But there is actually something newsy and interesting and oh yes, quite political out of this. It seems we now have a splinter group (from ECFiber?)  in the slow-as-molasses connectivity mess here in Woodstock which includes two Norman Williams Public Library representatives,  Director Jennifer Belton and Board Member Jack McGuire,  as well as Peter Rousmaniere and George Sadowsky — not to mention the ubiquitous Charlie Kimbell — who have decided to form their own committee to see what it would take to get Woodstock fully connected SOONER rather than later. We note, that effort could mean going it without ECFiber.  Also note Kimbell has been at the forefront of efforts to improve the business climate in Woodstock as part of the advisory “Economic Development Commission.”

Sadowsky says a main effort right now of this new group is to actually identify how many residents of Woodstock are served by each communications company provider of services here.

There has been a certain distancing, we would say, subtly and then not-so-subtly over time,  of the Norman Williams Public Library from EC Fiber  in what should certainly have been the coziest of all relationships. A fiber-optic hub at the our library: We would have thought an all-hands-on-deck  no-brainer?  We also would have thought there might have been a State or Federal library grant to jump-start such an effort.

From the point of view of the business-oriented group, a very salient point made by Mr. Sadowsky is this: If you want any commercial vendor of fiber optics to be the least bit interested there has to be a critical mass of people and/or business to make it interesting.  So, for example, Woodstock might think to establish some kind of commercial hub or center with many businesses wanting fiber optics to get their jobs done — THAT might be a way to draw interest from the er “service providers” who, once again,  might — or might not — include ECFiber.

Right now, the very kind and articulate Mr. Thomae, has given us the truth, which is Woodstock is probably going to just have to be patient, waiting for other EC Fiber investors so that, finally, one of them perhaps to the West or South or North will provide a contact point from which to unroll the lines. For now, South Pomfret to Woodstock is off the table due to that little interruption of underground conduits coming into town.

As always, the often times bemused Woodstock Selectboard respectfully said they supported ECFiber’s efforts and endorsed Peter Rousmaniere and George Sadowsky as new representatives to EC Fiber should Steve Carter not be interested in filling Dave Brown’s position.

The end.

Or is it?

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