What exactly is FalmouthNet?
FalmouthNet is the name of a project to build a community-based fiber optic network in Falmouth, Massachusetts. It is planned to use all 460 miles of Falmouth's roads and serve Falmouth's 24,000 homes and businesses. Its projected cost is expected to be about $55 million.
The creation of FalmouthNet, a community controlled fiber optic network, is the goal of FalmouthNet, Inc., a Massachusetts non-profit, which is tax-exempt with 501(c)(3) status, whose mission is "To promote, plan and guide the financing, construction, marketing and operation of a reliable, affordable locally-directed, state-of-the-art Internet access network capable of serving all residents, businesses, non-profit and government entities in the town of Falmouth, Massachusetts for the benefit of the citizens of Falmouth."
The Falmouth citizens that formed FalmouthNet came together in 2019 to further their vision of a town-wide community network. This group incorporated as FalmouthNet, Inc. in October, 2020. Its current Directors are Courtney Bird (President & Treasurer), Marilois Snowman (Vice President), David Isenberg (Clerk), Art Gaylord (Director), Dan Gessen (Director), Peter Zeeb (Director) and Jason Cullinane (Director).
When can I get FalmouthNet Internet service?
The FalmouthNet network is still in planning stages, so it is not possible to give a good answer to this question. Construction, once it starts, will take 18 months. The most optimistic start date for construction is mid-2022, but it may be several years from now. There are too many unknowns and uncertainties to be more accurate at this time.
Why is Internet service so unreliable in Falmouth today?
We believe that Falmouth's two main Internet service providers, Comcast and Verizon, see the Cape Cod seasonal economy as a place where capital investment in their networks underperform 9 months of the year.
Verizon's most advanced residential service, its FIOS fiber optic Internet access service, does not cross the Cape Cod Canal.
Comcast's basic network architecture dates back to the network Adelphia built in the early 1990s, which Comcast acquired when Adelphia went bankrupt in 2002. Much of the original network design from Adelphia is still in place. This means that some neighborhoods have too many homes sharing a local broadband node.
Verizon and Comcast have re-purposed their telephone and TV networks to offer Internet service. In contrast, FalmouthNet will be designed from the ground up for the Internet.
Do other communities have their own networks?
Yes. FalmouthNet would join over 900 municipal and community networks in the United States. Some of these are run by their city governments, others are run by cooperatives, and still others by public-private partnerships. The authoritative database for all these efforts is the Web site MuniNetworks.Org. Christopher Mitchell, the Director of MuniNetworks.Org, is on FalmouthNet's advisory board.
The first municipal networks in the US to offer fiber optic Internet connections to every home and business in their city were Lafayette, Louisiana's LUS Fiber Network and Chattanooga, Tennessee's EPB Network. Today, Lafayette offers fiber speeds up to 10,000 megabits/second to any customer who wants it, and speeds comparable to cable company speeds at more affordable prices. Chattanooga has similar services, with gigabit speeds at under $70 a month.
A study of the Chattanooga network's economic benefits identified $2.7 billion of economic value creation from a network that cost $220 million to build. The benefits included job creation and retention, lower unemployment, bridging the digital divide, and the fact that the city has become a hub for smart city research. Additionally, in 2020, Chattanooga started offering free 100 megabit/second Internet access and hardware to the 17,700 homes with children on school lunch programs.
FalmouthNet representatives recently spoke to the Executive Director of Longmont, Colorado's fiber to the home network. His problem is that the network is making too much money. Seriously. The network is considering a 50% rate cut.
Of course, not every municipal or community network has such dramatic success. A few have hit snags, and not all the results are quite as stunning, but the overwhelming experience is that municipal and community networks are financially sustainable and provide major benefits to their communities. There's much more information on this at muninetworks.org.
Why would I want to switch from my current Internet service provider to FalmouthNet?
You may not wish to switch. Changing from one technology to another is difficult for some people and scary for many. FalmouthNet plans to gain about 50% of Falmouth's customers in five years - our planning assumes that many Falmouth customers won't switch. That's OK - FalmouthNet's goals include competition and choice.
When FalmouthNet becomes available, those who choose it will gain many advantages. The most immediate advantages include higher speeds and much better reliability for about the same price as today's slower, less reliable Internet services. In addition, one of FalmouthNet's goals is friendly, responsive, local customer service.
There are also some longer-term reasons to become a FalmouthNet customer. FalmouthNet will have the capacity to handle our summer surge without network congestion. We expect it will attract new clean businesses, high-paying jobs and better work-from-home conditions for professionals. Studies of other communities have shown that fiber optic networks increase property values and rental incomes by about 3%. The FalmouthNet network will make Falmouth a better place to live.
What is the EDIC?
The Falmouth EDIC (Economic Development and Industrial Corporation) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Its mission is to increase business and industrial investment; expand opportunities to own, manage, and operate commercial and industrial enterprises; provide funding assistance; and increase job opportunities in the Town of Falmouth.
The EDIC saw the Feasibility Study proposed by the citizen's committee that became FalmouthNet, Inc. as fundamental to its mission. It funded its $52,000 cost and administered it in partnership with the citizen's committee.
FalmouthNet, Inc. sees EDIC as an essential partner.
What is OpenCape?
OpenCape is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit company that owns and operates Cape Cod's middle-mile fiber optic network. Its network serves local governments, businesses, and anchor institutions such as libraries, schools, hospitals and scientific laboratories, in Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod & Islands.
OpenCape was funded by $35 million from the Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and by $5 million from the Commonwealth. The network went live in 2013. Today it operates a network over of over 350 miles, including 42 miles of fiber in Falmouth, that connects Cape Cod to Internet exchanges in Providence and Boston.
FalmouthNet, Inc. sees OpenCape as an essential partner.
What is the Feasibility Study?
The Feasibility Study is a study of Falmouth's current Internet access services, of people's willingness to support a new community-based network, an assessment of the strategy and effort to finance, build and operate such a network. Its key findings were a) such a network is feasible, b) it would cost about $55 million to build it, it could expect about 61% of Falmouth's customers to sign up over the first five years, and that there were several strategies that could lead to successful operation of the network
The EDIC and the citizens committee that became FalmouthNet, Inc., collaborated on the Feasibility Study. In 2019, the citizens committee determined that a feasibility study was the essential first step in bringing a community-based fiber optic network to Falmouth. In June, 2019, the EDIC voted $50,000 to fund the study, and it issued a Request for Proposals in collaboration with the citizens committee. In fall, 2019, EDIC and the committee selected Doug Dawson of CCG Consulting to do the study. The EDIC appropriated another $2000 for Dawson to visit Falmouth. Despite some delays introduced by the Covid-19 pandemic, Dawson delivered the study in November, 2020.
Doug Dawson's report, Feasibility Report for a Community Network, is publicly available here.
Is the current Internet service really all that bad?
Falmouth's EDIC feasibility study, in a survey that pre-dated the Covid pandemic, showed that about 1/3 of the registered Falmouth voters surveyed were unhappy with their current broadband service, and 53% were unhappy with what they pay for what they get. 45% reported outages longer than a day. 63% of respondents reported slowdowns.
Comcast's advertised basic download speed in Falmouth is up to 150 megabits/s, but actual speed tests showed that 41% of customers had speeds less than 100 megabits/s and 23% had speeds below 50 megabits/s. 42% get Comcast's advertised speeds or better.
Why are fiber optic networks better?
Fiber optic networks are designed from the ground up for the Internet. They're not an afterthought or a retrofit on an existing network.
They last longer. The fiber itself, about 80% of the cost of a new network, is likely to last up to 100 years.
They're future-proof. Once installed, a fiber optic network can be upgraded as demand increases and technology improves by changing the electronics at the two ends of the fiber.
They carry more data faster. Fiber optic networks are faster because each strand of glass can carry the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from DC to daylight, in each hair-thin fiber of glass. On copper networks, activity on a pair of wires can interfere with neighboring wires due to electromagnetic cross-talk, but on fiber optic networks each fiber carries data without interfering with neighboring fibers.
They are more reliable. There are three reasons for this. First, the fiber optic cable is the strongest thing on a utility pole. Poles can go down in storms or be toppled by vehicle accidents, and the electrical cables, phone wires and TV cables might break, but the fiber cable is the last thing to go. Second, optical signals travel much further on fiber than electrical signals do on wire. As a result, there's less equipment in the network, thus fewer points of failure. Third, fiber optic networks can be built in ring architectures; if there's a cut in the ring, the data can travel the long way around and still reach its destination.
How much will FalmouthNet Internet service cost?
The Feasibility Study showed that currently Falmouth residents pay about $92 a month for stand-alone Internet service, and it says that Comcast's promotional (two-year) rate is $63 a month. It's too early to predict with any accuracy, but FalmouthNet's price will be not be too much lower or higher, and it will offer faster and more reliable service.
Will FalmouthNet offer TV and telephone service, or just Internet?
It's too early to tell. But in all cases, it will still be possible for FalmouthNet customers to buy classic telephone service from Verizon and classic TV from Comcast. These legacy services will hapily coexist with FalmouthNet Internet service.
If FalmouthNet does offer phone and TV, they'll be "over the top" services, that is, they'll be Internet telephony and streaming TV. These will be able to use your existing telephone and television. It's too early to say exactly what form they'll take or if FalmouthNet will sell these directly to Falmouth residents.
Does Falmouth need a new fiber optic network when wireless services like 5G, T-Mobile At Home and Starlink are coming?
Yes. FalmouthNet will serve every home and business in Falmouth with fast, reliable and consistent Internet service. Our real-world experience with T-Mobile At Home shows great service within a quarter mile of a T-Mobile antenna, but rapidly decreasing speeds further away. With StarLink, Elon Musk's low-earth-orbit satellite service, the start-up cost is almost $600 and the monthly fee is $100. 5G from Verizon, when it comes, will be available primarily on main roads and in village centers.
With all of these wireless services, congestion is an issue. We'll see this summer how well T-Mobile At Home does under summer loads. Experts are worried that StarLink service will slow when the system gains more customers. FalmouthNet, in contrast, is designed to serve all of Falmouth affordably and with no congestion.
If I get FalmouthNet, will I need a new cable to my house?
Yes. Your FalmouthNet Internet service will be fiber optic from your home's optical network terminal (ONT) to the Internet. FalmouthNet's installation crews will work with homeowners to make sure that installation is minimally disruptive and consistent with other utilities in the neighborhood.
Will FalmouthNet charge an installation fee?
We do not plan to charge an installation fee. We want everybody in Falmouth who wants FalmouthNet to get it. We don't want to put a financial speed bump in the way.
Will FalmouthNet make my taxes go up?
It depends on how FalmouthNet is financed. FalmouthNet board member Art Gaylord has calculated that in a pure public financing scenario, if the $55 million cost of FalmouthNet is fully financed with a Falmouth municipal bond (about $72 million with interest), the taxes on a median Falmouth home (valued at $500,000) will go up about $103 a year (at current interest rates). When FalmouthNet turns cash positive in about Year 7, the cash can be used to reduce taxes to (or below) the original rate.
But there are other scenarios. Under a purely private scenario, a commercial company would use its own capital to build the network with zero impact on town taxes. But then it would own the network, and gain the financial benefits when the network turns cash positive.
Who will pay for FalmouthNet?
We are considering several alternatives. The town could finance it with a municipal bond. The federal government could pay for it with a grant or low interest loan under any of several budget bills under Congressional consideration. There may be state funds available. A private company could build and operate FalmouthNet with its own money. FalmouthNet could be built under a public-private partnership. In all cases, ultimately, eventually the customers of FalmouthNet will pay for the network with their monthly fees - we believe that the value of FalmouthNet's network will eventually exceed its cost.
How can I support FalmouthNet?
The most important thing you can do is what you're doing right now - learning about FalmouthNet. We want everybody in Falmouth to understand what FalmouthNet is doing, why it is doing it, what it means for each of us, and what it means for our town. Here are a few other suggestions:
a) Spread the word. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Invite a FalmouthNet representative to come talk to your club or association or church or informal group.
b) Donate to FalmouthNet. We will use the money for our public education campaign and for general purposes like insurance, printing and advertising.
c) Write a letter supporting FalmouthNet to our Select Board (email@example.com) and our Town Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
d) Letters to the Enterprise email@example.com are always welcome.
How will FalmouthNet make Falmouth a better place to live?
FalmouthNet will give Falmouth one of the most advanced networks in the world. It will be a well-justified source of civic pride. It will attract new high-tech businesses to town. It will support new jobs. It will increase property values and rents by about 3%. It will make it easier for Falmouth citizens to work from home. It will make Falmouth more resilient should there be a future pandemic or other emergency.
Could FalmouthNet qualify for federal rural broadband funds?
Mostly no. Cape Cod is too dense, and with Comcast, Verizon and others offering Internet access connections that they claim are fast enough to qualify as broadband by the FCC's definition of 25 megabit/s downloads and 3 megabit/s uploads, Cape Cod is too well-served.
Nor does Cape Cod qualify as an urban-underserved area. It has not been red-lined by the bigcos based on income, race or quality of housing.
We believe that Cape Cod is seasonally under-served. When a big, investor- owned company looks at improving its Cape Cod assets, it sees an investment that performs for three months and underperforms for nine. We think that's why Verizon's FIOS doesn't cross the Cape Cod Canal and why Comcast's Cape Cod networks have not been rebuilt to modern standards since the Adelphia owned them in the 1990s.
If your question is more general than FalmouthNet, you may wish to check with these other FAQ pages:
FAQs about community networks:
FAQs about network technology:
FAQs about fiber optics:
If you have a question that is not asked below, PLEASE LET US KNOW at firstname.lastname@example.org