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Broadband feasible, not easy for the Massachusetts community

By on March 23, 2021 0


(TNS) – According to a recent study, delivering a reliable, community-based broadband internet system is possible in Falmouth, but it won’t be easy to achieve.

For more than a year, residents have been studying the possibility of building a new, community-run fiber optic network that would improve internet service in the city, something many residents have been dissatisfied with for years.

Fiber optic internet can reach higher speeds with less latency, and fiber optic cables are more durable than copper cables and can withstand inclement weather.

The Falmouth Economic Development and Industrial Corporation and the Falmouth Community Network Committee, the latter group of residents working to improve the city’s internet services, have worked together to see if fiber-optic internet has a future in the city. The EDIC hired CCG Consulting to conduct a feasibility study, which revealed that a fiber optic network is feasible.

WHY IS A FIBER OPTIC NETWORK NECESSARY?

Falmouth’s broadband service is not as good as it should be, according to the study, due to Comcast’s slow download speeds and Verizon’s legacy DSL technology.

Download speeds in Falmouth are also slow, according to the study. Comcast reports to the Federal Communications Commission that all of its customers in Falmouth can achieve download speeds of 25 megabits per second, but only 15% download at that rate, according to the study.

The study, conducted in March 2020, found that the pandemic revealed gaps in coverage. Many homes experienced slowdowns and interruptions in Internet service during the pandemic, and a new fiber-optic network would eliminate that.

IS THERE ENOUGH DEMAND FOR THIS?

The study found that 61% of residents surveyed would consider switching to a new network.

The need for broadband is also increasing, according to the study. As of December 2019, the country’s average home was using 344 gigabytes for the year. In March of this year, that number jumped to 403 gigabytes, according to the study.

Of those polled, 70% supported the idea that the city brings a new fiber optic network, and an additional 16% said they could support the idea but need more information. Many of those who support the idea hope it will bring more competition, lower prices, and more reliable broadband.

WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM A FIBER OPTIC NETWORK?

One of the main goals of a community-run fiber optic network would be to ensure access to every resident of Falmouth.

“Everyone deserves a good quality Internet, regardless of their income,” said Courtney Bird, member of the Falmouth Community Network Committee. “It has to make money and be profitable, but it is also designed to meet the needs of the community.”

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

CCG Consulting estimates that the project would cost approximately $ 54.6 million, which includes the cost of fiber, fiber hook-ups, electronics and operational assets.

The debt needed to finance the network would be significant, in the order of $ 70 million for the city, according to the study, and “unfortunately, there are few private (Internet service providers) who would be able to raise the necessary funds to build a fiber network in the city.

WHERE WILL THE MONEY COME FROM?

The report examines different financing options.

The city could partner with an Internet service provider to build the fiber optic network, and the project has sufficient profit potential to be a worthwhile investment.

Although expensive, fiber Internet service is financially feasible. CCG Consulting created detailed financial models and determined that most scenarios with 50% market penetration generate profits over 20 years.

Other funding options include direct tax funding, raising local seed capital, partnering with an existing business already in Falmouth, and Opportunity Zone Funding, a community development program established by Congress to encourage investment. long term in communities.

CCG Consulting said in the study that it was not aware of any grant programs that could be used to build significant amounts of fiber in the city, stating that current federal and state broadband grant programs are intended for more rural markets.

It is, however, possible to attract grant money by bringing fiber into town in small increments, such as along the downtown commercial corridor on Main Street, according to the study.

“If the city is funding the fiber network, all or most of the funding should probably come from municipal bonds,” the study said.

Funding could be raised by the city and / or the DTIS in the form of a bond, from local equity or loans from community members or an ISP partner.

“We rarely see new community fiber networks funded from a single source,” according to the study.

CCG Consulting noted that funding from different sources is complicated, as it requires finding out how each fund provider is protected in the event of project failure.

WHAT IS THE NEXT?

Once the study was completed, CCG Consulting recommended actions, including further discussion of the study results, educating the public, and finding a way to fund the network.

The consultant also suggests determining the level of control the local community will have in a partnership and talking to potential ISP partners.

The project needs a “local champion” to take it forward and address each of the study’s recommendations, and the consultant also recommends finding ways to reduce construction costs, such as sharing fiber with OpenCape, a non-profit organization that has connected around 45 businesses on Main Street in Falmouth with a fiber optic network.

The city may also contact Verizon to possibly bring its new FiOS technology to Cape Town, according to the study.

The Falmouth Community Network committee will garner more community support and educate the public by reaching out to homeowners associations, community civic groups and business groups, Bird said.

“We hope we can bring the ship home, so to speak,” he said, noting that the project will not happen if there is not a group of people defending and defending it. grow.

“We are warning the city to be persistent if you really want fiber – if not, you could (be) stopped by roadblocks appearing along the way to get fiber,” the study said.

© 2020 Cape Cod Times, distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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