March Infrastructure: Last Mile

At the March Infrastructure Committee meeting we returned to Last Mile, with an update from Open Cape.
Open Cape’s Executive Director Steven Johnston reported there’s been a lot of work evaluating last mile at every level of the organization. They are talking to towns and looking at housing data to see how many homes would use fiber.

Johnston said that the national average of what it costs to connect a home is high, but density on the Cape brings that number down in some towns. Open Cape is releasing data on every town to show costs. Provincetown, for example, is especially dense and benefits from economy of scale.

Another way to lower costs is to connect through an existing hub. Open Cape is running new fiber into WHOI and into Woods Hole proper, which will allow them to serve new customers. Aggregating customers has made build-outs possible in dense areas of Falmouth and Hyannis.

Part of Open Cape’s work right now is clarifying the business model. They migrated Cape Net customers to Open Cape, however there are still questions about who owns the fiber and who is the service provider. For the moment, people are signing agreements with Open Cape.

Johnston says he would like towns to own the fiber, and connect to Open Cape for service. If a town owned the fiber, they would pay Open Cape for connectivity and keep the revenue from customers who connected to that fiber. The amount of revenue to the town depends on the adoption rate.

Towns want to have some amount of control, but realize they are not experts and want to outsource the operation. Johnston also talked about a Regional Wide Area Network which allows municipal buildings and schools to connect and share service. Some towns will not buy service from Open Cape because they are not on the state contract. This may change when ITT46 opens up for new applications in April.

Work on the Last Mile needs to happen on the legislative side, Johnston said. Funding is going to Western Mass, but not Cape Cod. He added that the Cape needs to present the ask in a way that fits in where money is already allocated, and to keep talking to legislators.

The Infrastructure Committee also discussed the need for Dig Once. Cape Cod towns are still not thinking of fiber when they dig trenches to run water, sewage, etc. No one is running fiber alongside at the same time.

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