The Falmouth Economic Development and Industrial Corporation has voted to commit funds to further explore the idea of creating a community-based fiber optic network.
The board unanimously approved a motion, committing $50,000. The vote came during the EDIC’s meeting on Tuesday, June 11.
Propelled by internet outages and high service costs, a group of five residents organized a public meeting to gauge interest in a community-based form of internet connection. A fiber optic network uses light to send information, running over thin strands of glass. OpenCape, a nonprofit, has already built a fiber-optic “loop” in Falmouth, connecting municipal buildings, schools, emergency services, and some employers. Discussions about a community-based fiber optic network focus on building-out the “last mile.”
More than 80 residents attended a public meeting at the main branch of the Falmouth Public Library on June 4.
“It was a packed room, lots of interest, so we feel we want to build on that momentum,” said Courtney Bird, one of the organizers of the initial meeting.
The next step is funding a feasibility study to explore the level of interest, possible network offerings, who might run and operate the network, and how it could get funded, said Art Gaylord, another one of the organizers.
Christopher Simmler, acting chairman of the EDIC, asked whether proponents of the study had explored other funding options, such as grants. Mr. Gaylord said they were not aware of possible grants, but that finding, applying for, and securing grants might draw out the process.
Mr. Bird characterized the feasibility study as a way to move the process forward, arguing that it would be a “real investment” in the future of the town.
“If you folks were to approve a feasibility study, that doesn’t end the story. It’s the beginning of the story,” Mr. Bird said.
When asked about receiving funding through Town Meeting, Mr. Gaylord noted that “timing is important.” He said the feasibility study would take at least six months. Waiting for November Town Meeting to ask for funding for the study might delay the results of the study past the May Town Meeting, he said.
“I would hate to see this slip another year or two,” Mr. Gaylord added.
Members of the EDIC expressed support for the study. EDIC member Patti Haney noted that moving the project forward without a feasibility study would be “irresponsible.”
The newly hired executive director of the EDIC, Michael DiGiano, said a feasibility study could help show the economic impact of a community-based fiber optic network.
EDIC member Michael Galasso pointed to lease revenue from the landfill solar project as a way to offset the cost of the fiber optic network feasibility study. As part of the motion, members of the EDIC agreed to approach selectmen about recouping the cost of the study through land lease revenue.
However, the $50,000 allocation will not be contingent on receiving funds from the landfill solar project, authorized by selectmen.
Chairman Christopher Land and vice chairman Susan L. Moran were not present at the meeting.