Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "opencape"
Following Through on Transparency: A Broadband Nutrition Label Status Report
Nearly one year ago on November 15, 2021, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which contained significant legislation around broadband. One piece, which the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has studied closely over the past year and a half, is the implementation of a broadband nutrition label which would require the transparent disclosure of broadband pricing and service information.
While this issue gets very little news coverage, it is an important undertaking as the big providers have a long-established habit of hiding pricing and speed information from subscribers, which prevents them from making informed choices and can leave them vulnerable to exploitation. Our advocacy for the label, and the original research behind our position, can be found here. The FCC is now under deadline to release an order to “promulgate regulations to require the display of” the label by November 15 of this year. We’ve taken a moment here to re-access the issue, offer a few updates, and highlight the ingredients of a strong broadband nutrition label.
Pushing for Clarity, Easy Accessibility, and Enforcement
ILSR, along with 30 other digital equity organizations, recently filed a letter to the FCC supporting the creation of the broadband consumer label and advocating that it be published in a way that makes it clear and easily accessible for customers. While ILSR believes the label is a key decision-making tool and should be published at the point of sale, we reject proposals to limit the label’s display to the point-of-sale only. We emphasize in this letter that the label should also be published on the monthly bill to provide an additional provider accountability mechanism that allows customers to understand what they're paying for.
OpenCape Residential Fiber Pilot a Window to Better Connectivity on Cape Cod
Earlier this month, OpenCape Corporation, a nonprofit fiber provider in southeastern Massachusetts, announced that it will pilot Fiber-to-the-Premises residential service at a new mixed-use development in Hyannis on Cape Cod. For the project, CapeBuilt Development is renovating a historic building to house apartments and businesses. Thanks to OpenCape’s connectivity, they will be first fully fiberized residential units on the Cape.
OpenCape hopes that the pilot project in Hyannis will serve as a model for towns in the region that are looking to invest in municipal broadband networks.
The Covid-19 pandemic emphasizes the importance of investing in quality connectivity for Cape Cod families to enable working and learning from home. “The only way that becomes truly possible is to ensure that they have access to robust, reliable and affordable Internet connectivity in their homes,” said OpenCape CEO Steven Johnston in the press release.
In response to the current public health crisis, OpenCape has also upgraded customers’ bandwidth and taken the Federal Communication Commission’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge to not disconnect customers affected by the pandemic or charge late fees. “It is something we feel fits within our mission, that we are supposed to be serving the communities in southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod,” Johnston told the Falmouth Enterprise.
ISPs Pledge Higher Speeds, No Data Caps, and Some Free Connections During Pandemic
In an effort to keep families connected as schools and workplaces close in response to the novel coronavirus, many Internet service providers (ISPs) are taking steps to make their services more accessible and functional for those of us who are staying home for the foreseeable future.
Some policies are being officially encouraged by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) through Chairman Ajit Pai’s new Keep Americans Connected Pledge. By signing onto the pledge, providers agree to open Wi-Fi hotspots to the general public and to not disconnect or charge late fees to those struggling to pay bills due to the pandemic.
To ensure people have sufficient connectivity during the public health crisis, some ISPs are going beyond the pledge’s requirements by raising speeds, suspending data caps, and offering free Internet access to certain households.
While these efforts will not close all of the digital divides being exacerbated the pandemic, they are an important step toward mitigating the immediate impact on families and businesses.
Keep Americans Connected Pledge
FCC Chairman Pai announced the Keep Americans Connected Pledge last Friday, March 13. The pledge calls on ISPs to make Wi-Fi hotspots publicly accessible and to keep households and small businesses that are facing financial difficulties because of the pandemic connected over the next couple months.
Falmouth Issues Feasibility Study RFP, Responses Due August 12
The community of Falmouth, Massachusetts, continues to march forward with their plans to find a way to bring better connectivity to the coastal town. Falmouth Economic Development & Industrial Corporation (EDIC) recently issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a feasibility study for a community network. Proposals are due August 12, 2019.
The RFP follows a June 4th meeting attended by about 80 people and a vote from the EDIC a week later to commit $50,000 toward the study. The meeting allowed people in the community to obtain information about the pros and cons of municipal networks and explore the possibilities for Falmouth.
Executive Director of the EDIC F. Michael DiGiano provided some important facts about the community and the vision for Falmouth:
Falmouth is a coastal community located on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, with a year population of 32,000 and a summer population of more than 105,000. The Town is home to several world-class scientific research organizations, including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Marine Biological Laboratory, and research centers for NOAA and USGS.
Many businesses and residents experience service problems with the current broadband system especially in summer months when the population triples. The purpose of the feasibility study is determine the viability of a locally owned broadband network that would offer reliable service for the needs of both residential and commercial customers throughout the year.
Comcast offers cable Internet access and DSL is available from Verizon in many areas of town, but neither coverage is ubiquitous. OpenCape maintains a presence in Falmouth, offering services to institutions, including schools and libraries, and to larger businesses. In a few areas of town, OpenCape has started offering residential and small business connectivity in mixed-use buildings. Falmouth hopes the presence of OpenCape fiber in the city will help implement a more cost effective and efficient deployment.
Falmouth Needs Answers
The community is looking for a firm that will:
OpenCape on Morning Radio in Provincetown
Cape Cod is known for tourism, not for connectivity. The nonprofit OpenCape aims to change that. In In a recent Provincetown, Massachusetts morning radio show, Provincetown Town Manager David Panagore spoke with Dr. Michael Goodman of UMass Dartmouth and Steve Johnston of OpenCape to dig into the idea of better connectivity in the region and how OpenCape can make that happen.
Connectivity for the Local Economy
The first guest on "Town Talk" is Dr. Michael Goodman from UMass Dartmouth. He describes how broadband has become an essential utility for the local economy. Goodman's specific examples underscore the importance of Internet service for small businesses providing customer service.
Lack of connectivity slows down everything, from sending files to running credit cards. High-speed Internet service from community networks has been a major boon to a number of towns. We’ve compiled many examples on our Economic Development page.
Open Cape’s Crowd Fiber Campaign
The Executive Director of OpenCape, Steve Johnston, joins the show to discuss the role of OpenCape in efforts to improve connectivity for homes and businesses. OpenCape is the nonprofit that built a regional network to many schools, libraries, and public institutions throughout Cape Cod.
The nonprofit began a campaign this past summer to show how many residents need high-speed Internet access. To learn more about the OpenCape Crowd Fiber campaign, check out the Community Broadband Bits Podcast episode #215.
You can also listen the show at WOMR.org.
Bridgewater State University Connects to OpenCape
CapeNet, the local Internet service provider, on the OpenCape community network is expanding in southeastern Massachusetts. Bridgewater State University will connect to the OpenCape network for more bandwidth and more reliable Internet access.
Connectivity for Education
Bridgewater State University needed to ensure reliable connectivity for its students because many university courses have online, cloud-based, or video components. In fact, nearly every school CapeNet serves requests more bandwidth each year, reports the Bridgewater Wicked Local.
Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at Bridgewater State University, Raymond V. Lefebvre, summed up the importance of connectivity for education institutions:
“We pursued this additional Internet bandwidth in support of teaching, research, collaboration, learning and our residence students.”
More Reliable, Higher Bandwidth
The university already has connectivity through another provider, but wanted a second fiber connection to ensure redundancy. Connecting to OpenCape not only increases bandwidth, but also improves reliability. The OpenCape network traverses an entirely different route than the university’s other fiber connection.
If the first fiber connection fails (i.e. if the cable gets damaged or equipment goes down), students’ and professors’ work will not be interrupted thanks to the connection to the OpenCape network. The second connection will keep information flowing. Alan Davis, CEO of CapeNet, explained:
“Because the OpenCape Network has virtually unlimited capacity and was designed to eliminate single points of failure, it is a valuable tool for institutions like Bridgewater State.”
OpenCape Institutional User Sees Internet Speed Double
A major institutional customer on the OpenCape fiber optic network in the Cape Cod region of Massachusetts is now enjoying Internet access at double the speed.
CapeCod.com reports that local CapeNet, the supplier of service over the OpenCape network, has doubled the Internet speed for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) from 1 Gigabits per second (Gbps) to 2 Gbps. By switching to CapeNet as its primary provider, WHOI now also has the ability to expand up to 10 Gbps.
Previously, CapeNet provided 100 megabits to WHOI as a secondary provider, but the research and educational organization was interested in dramatically increasing its Internet capacity. In order to increase capacity, WHOI needed to make the switch to CapeNet.
CapeNet, the private provider that operates via the CapeNet fiber infrastructure, offers services across southeastern Massachusetts and to every town on the Cape. In addition to 150 institutional customers, the network connects businesses that handle large data, libraries, colleges, high schools, research facilities, municipal buildings, healthcare clinics, and public safety agencies. It is middle mile infrastructure, which means it links the Internet backbone to organizations and businesses that serve end users.
To become the primary broadband provider for WHOI, CapeNet installed additional equipment in Boston, Providence, and throughout the research campus. “It was actually quite a substantial undertaking in order to expand their capabilities,” said Alan Davis, chief executive officer of CapeNet.
CapeNet On The Move...To Businesses and Residents?
CapeCod.com also reports that CapeNet is:
...[C]ontinuing to expand services to educational institutions on the Cape.
Falmouth Saves With Cape Cod I-Net
Out on Cape Cod, municipal networks are taking hold. Public buildings throughout the town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, experience great connectivity and the town saves $160,000 each year with its own Institutional network (I-Net).
The Falmouth Area Network, maintained by CapeNet, connects 17 buildings throughout the town for a total of $3,000 each month ($2,500 from the school; $500 from the town). Were the town to go through a private provider, it would cost $1,000 for each building every month or $17,000 per month. By saving $14,000 each month, Falmouth's annual savings add up to approximately $160,000 a year. That’s a lot of money to be reinvested in the community of 31,000.
Falmouth Area Network intends to reach even more institutional buildings in the next few years. The 17 that are connected now are the libraries, the schools, the town hall, the police stations, the fire stations, the harbormaster’s office, and a senior center. Soon the Gus Canty Community Center will also gain a connection. At the Annual Town Meeting last week, the town approved the Capital Improvement Plan which included $80,000 to upgrade the network, including hooking up the community center. There are also plans to add a new wastewater treatment plan to the network in 2017.
The Role of OpenCape
Video on OpenCape: How Cape Cod Created a Fiber Network
Almost ten years ago, Dan Gallagher, a technology director at Cape Cod Community College, could not get the bandwidth the college needed from incumbent service providers. After communicating with others in the areas, it soon became clear that a number of others shared the same experience.
“We asked anyone who thinks this is a problem for their business or entity here on the cape to come to cape cod community college to talk about it and a hundred people showed up.” - Dan Gallagher in eSTEAMers
The community formed non-profit OpenCape, and created a 350 mile fiber optic network and a colocation data center with $40 million in combined BTOP grants, state grants, and private funding. Completed in late 2012, the project proved to be well-worth the wait. Three large entities almost immediately became customers on the network: the Joint Base, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and Hydroid, Inc, a private company.
Now the senior consultant for OpenCape, Dan Gallagher describes the project in depth in this episode of eSTEAMers by Cape Cod Community Media Center.
Boston Globe Profiles Lafayette; OpenCape Inspired
In a recent Boston Globe Opinion, Dante Ramos notes that Boston has a reputation as a technology hub. When seeking options and affordability, however, Ramos recounts the successful approach of Lafayette, Louisiana:
Today, the top broadband speeds advertised to residential customers in Boston are about one-ninth of what’s available in Lafayette. A municipal network in Boston isn’t inconceivable; the fiber-optic network now connecting scores of government facilities could theoretically become the spine of a citywide system.
Ramos acknowledges the challenges Boston would face if it were to take up such a project, but he also notes that it was no small feat for Lafayette. The economic development gains have more than justified the investment:
Half a decade later, though, the benefits have come into view. A company serving an active Louisiana film industry can use the Lafayette network to transmit massive quantities of digital footage. Employees of a major jewelry manufacturer in town can get medical advice remotely without having to go in and out of a highly secure plant. And the presence of the network is shaping investment decisions in subtle ways.
Ramos shares the story of his encounter with the owner of a local Internet consulting firm who chose the company data center location because it was within the LUS Fiber service area. He also valued the network's speed, reliability, and quality customer service.
Lafayette's network has also continually drawn in new employers, including three high tech companies in the fall of 2014. Along with those approximately 1,300 well paying positions come the multiplier effect on the local economy.
Ramos' piece inspired a letter to the Globe from Art Gaylord and Dan Gallagher, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Senior Consultant respectively, from OpenCape. The two find inspiration in the story of Lafayette but lament what they see as a lack of enthusiasm in the Cape Cod region.