Kick-off meeting for network study – Dec. 12 – 6:30 PM – Falmouth Library

The Falmouth Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC) will kick off a feasibility study for a community fiber optic network for Falmouth at a public meeting on December 12 at 6:30p in the Hermann Room of the Falmouth Public Library, 300 Main Street.

At the meeting, Doug Dawson, President of CCG Consulting, the contractor selected by the EDIC to lead the study, will provide an overview of the project and will encourage those in attendance to share their experiences and ask questions regarding Internet services available now or in the future in Falmouth.

In announcing the kick-off meeting, Christopher Land, Chairman of the Falmouth EDIC noted “All sectors of Falmouth’s economy require reliable, high speed Internet service. This first ever assessment will give us a handle on what problems our residents and businesses are experiencing and whether a community fiber optic network is a possible solution”.

The idea of a Falmouth community network was conceived by a grassroots group of Falmouth residents as a competitive, locally controlled alternative to service providers like Comcast or Verizon. In June, the Falmouth Community Network Group brought its idea to the EDIC, Falmouth’s non-profit economic development corporation, and the Board voted to fund a $50,000 feasibility study. The group has continued to work with the EDIC to move the Falmouth community network study towards reality.

Today’s Internet connections in Falmouth are subject to summer overloads and weather-related outages. Verizon’s most advanced residential service, FIOS, doesn’t cross the Cape Cod Canal. As a result, Comcast has the only high-speed residential service in Falmouth.

As conceived by advocates, the proposed network would provide a competitive alternative to existing commercial internet service providers. By making high speed fiber optic technology more widely available, the Falmouth community network would support reliable service and fast internet access. In addition, the network would have the capacity to serve Falmouth’s summer population while also supporting the year-round economy. A locally controlled community-based network would offer better customer service and more transparent rates.

Currently there are 16 Massachusetts communities with locally controlled internet access networks including the eastern Massachusetts towns of Taunton, Norwood, Braintree, Concord and Reading. Falmouth is one of twelve Massachusetts towns that have announced moves (actions) to explore community networks in 2019.

The Falmouth feasibility study will survey Falmouth residents and businesses about their current internet services. It will examine Falmouth’s communications infrastructure to determine the cost of building the envisioned network and it will specify several options for financing and operating the network.

The study’s findings are expected next spring.

In July, the EDIC, working with the Falmouth Community Network Group, issued an RFP for consultant services to complete the feasibility study. Nine firms responded with proposals. CCG Consulting, based in North Carolina, was selected by the EDIC at its November meeting. CCG Consulting, in business since 1997, is a full-service telecom consulting company for small communications carriers. It has completed over 200 similar feasibility studies for clients around the country. Many of these clients are local and county governments.

An Interview with a Community Networks Expert

Courtney Bird and Peter Cook interview Christopher Mitchell, the Director of the Community Broadband Network Initiative at Institute of Local Self Reliance about efforts such as ours. Christopher’s work focuses on telecommunications–helping communities ensure the networks upon which they depend, are accountable to the community. He is a nationally recognized speaker and author and has helped main communities such as ours. The video will be shown on FCTV and is also available here.

9 Bids received

We have received nine bids to our Request for Proposals for a company to do a feasibility study for the community network. This is a very good response and shows that there is significant interest in the project. We reviewed the bids and will be interviewing a set of finalists in the next few weeks. We expect to select a company in early October.

Demonstrated Reliability – Falmouth Enterprise Editorial

The small group that is making a case for creating a municipal high-speed fiber optic network argues that it will be faster, cheaper and more reliable than currently available options for internet access. They are no doubt right on all counts, although a feasibility study, which will soon get underway, will put these claims to the test.

The tempestuous weather of last week, however, already put one element to the test.

A municipal system would be built on the OpenCape network, which currently services the town, hospital and scientific institutions in Woods Hole. A town-wide system would connect OpenCape with homes and businesses. That is the expensive part.

But the reliability of OpenCape was in evidence when the storms, microbursts and tornadoes hit the Cape. Very few OpenCape customers lost internet access during that time; unofficial count we received was 13, and even then, that was due to loss of electricity.

The OpenCape network withstood the storms, even though—again an unofficial report—some 20 utility poles on which OpenCape’s cables were strung, were toppled. These numbers might not be quite right, but it can be said with certainty that the OpenCape network held firm.

This is something to consider as we head into hurricane season. The tornadoes Down Cape, as dramatic as they were, are but a preview of the damage that could be wrought by even a Category One storm. The tornadoes last week created winds from 90 to 110 miles per hour for a short time. During Hurricane Bob, not a particularly severe hurricane, gusts were over 100 miles per hour throughout the entire afternoon of August 16, 1991.

Internet access is not a luxury or a source of entertainment, although it is that for some. Today it is a necessary component of commerce and communication. Reliability is paramount.

Recent weather and the durability of OpenCape tell us that speed and expense aside, the reliability of a municipal broadband system connected to OpenCape is reason enough to hope that the small group that proposed it will gain widespread support.