The OpenCape network is providing Massachusetts Maritime Academy with the ability to download and upload Internet files at blinding speed.
Two years ago, the college, based in Buzzards Bay, became one of the first major Cape institutions to hook into the high-bandwidth network.
CapeNet, the company that designed, built and now operates the network, arranged for Mass Maritime to access OpenCape.
“By adding CapeNet, we increased the size of our highway to the Internet,” said Anne Marie Fallon, vice president and chief information officer at MMA.
“We added additional room for data to come through with lecturing and cloud-based teaching tools,” Ms. Fallon said. “Students, faculty and staff all use it.”
Academy officials say the partnership with CapeNet has paid off: Internet speed on the campus has increased by 400 percent since MMA began using OpenCape in 2013.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the school paid CapeNet $55,000 for the service.
Rear Admiral Richard G. Gurnon—now retired, but then president of MMA—testified to the value of the high-bandwidth service to the school in a CapeNet video filmed earlier this year.
“We have 1,400 mostly adolescent males, and you cannot have enough bandwidth,” Admiral Gurnon said. “They leave the lights on in their rooms, and they leave their computers running, downloading constantly.”
Admiral Gurnon said that the service has also proven a useful tool in the classroom.
Professors can instantly download video apps during class, such as “stability in trim” used during the launch of a lifeboat. “All are available in the cloud but in a fast-paced, 50-minute class, you can’t be waiting for it to load,” he said.
Academy staff members also attest to the value of the high-bandwidth network.
James E. Seavey, director of sports information, public relations for MMA’s varsity athletic programs, said sophisticated broadband is essential to his work on a daily basis.
“With what I do, overseeing public relations for our sports teams, it’s a must,” Mr. Seavey said. “We’ve expanded to live streaming for many events, and by this spring we’ll have a live in-game statistic platform, where statistics update on the screen.
“We have our own website dedicated to sports, and the ability to provide content and updated information to the wide range of audiences that follow our games is crucial,” he said.
Broadband also helps him communicate with the media.
“The upgrades have assisted greatly in sending stories about our games to press outlets throughout the region,” Mr. Seavey said. “I’m always utilizing it, I couldn’t do my job without it.”
Maria Cullen, who works in MMA’s media relations office, said she utilizes the academy’s broadband regularly as part of her work.
“Part of my job is doing research,” Ms. Cullen said. “I am researching the history of the school, looking for clippings for the school’s 125th anniversary event. The Internet helps get archival information and provides direct contact to libraries.”
Furthermore, the school taps the OpenCape network to trigger all the campus digital signage and broadcast systems in case of an emergency.
“You often have scant seconds to deal with an emergency and save lives,” Admiral Gurnon said. “Without instantaneous connectivity, you run the risk of exposing people to harm.”
Ms. Fallon said that the school already had been moving toward increasing its bandwidth when it decided to go with CapeNet and OpenCape in 2013.
“We would have done it with other vendors, but CapeNet has been local, cost-competitive and a good partner,” she said.
According to Judith M. Sterling, vice president of marketing at CapeNet, “Businesses need broadband to survive, and local businesses have been significantly underserved here compared to more densely populated areas of the country because of our smaller population.”
In 2010, Ms. Sterling said, Cape institutions, organizations and businesses founded OpenCape as a nonprofit.
The now-completed OpenCape fiber-optic backbone spans 475 miles throughout southeastern Massachusetts, threading through Cape Cod and offering high-speed links to both islands.
The network connects with the world at separate centers in Providence, Boston, Cambridge and Brockton.
CapeNet markets OpenCape broadband to data-intensive enterprises, wireless carriers, data centers, government buildings, schools, colleges, libraries, hospitals and research institutions throughout the region.
At present, Ms. Sterling said, the network is only available to large institutions. She said the last leg to private homes is still untenable, due to expense.
Robert R. MacGregor, director of information technology services at MMA, remembers the academy’s first encounter with CapeNet.
“It started way back when we were identified as an anchor institution,” Mr. MacGregor said. “CapeNet wanted to bring cable through the academy with the intent of starting a data service.”
CapeNet, in fact, held its ribbon-cutting for the OpenCape network at Mass Maritime.
Ms. Fallon said the OpenCape network has come to play a key role at the school.
“When students are thinking about coming to Mass Maritime, they don’t ask how much bandwidth we provide, but it enables much of the unique education we offer,” she said.