KEENE - A grass-roots effort to expand broadband Internet access in the town of Keene is fast becoming a reality.
Together with nearly $200,000 in private donations, a $100,000 state economic development grant secured by state Sen. Elizabeth Little is fueling a plan to bring high-speed Internet to 90 percent of Keene homes using state-of-the-art fiber optic technology.
The funds come three years after the High Peaks Education Foundation launched an effort to renovate and expand the network infrastructure of Keene Valley Video, or KVVI, the town's primary Internet service provider.
Prior to the new fiber optic technology, KVVI already supplied broadband to about 500 homes on up to 30 miles of coaxial cable. That's roughly 60 percent of all the homes in town, but it did not provide the critical mass needed for KVVI, a locally-owned company, to sustain its Internet service.
Outside funding was needed to make expansion feasible because homes outside the service area are so sparse, but community members rallied with financial support and rejoiced when the state grant was secured.
"There is a great degree of positive energy in this town right now about this project," said town supervisor Bill Ferebee. "Major areas are being wired that never have had access to anything but dial-up before."
KVVI network engineer John LaFountain explained that, unlike other mediums, the fiber optic lines can extend up to 12 miles without having to have their signal strength boosted by additional electronics. With virtually no homes outside that 12-mile radius, fiber optics offer both an efficient and effective solution.
Project co-director Jim Herman said KVVI has been a crucial ally in the project, contributing nearly $200,000 worth of its own funds and labor.
"In the past few weeks, fiber has been strung that extends the network to pass by over 120 new homes," added Ferebee. "We are extremely grateful to Senator Little for her assistance in making this possible."