Because of the coronavirus, OpenCape staff predicts the future of work is at home.
“This is going to fundamentally change the way we work,” said Steven R. Johnston, chief executive officer of OpenCape. “It will change the way people see working at home. We’ve got another six to eight weeks of this, and people will figure out how they can work from home.”
Chief technology officer Janek Chrzanowski said a strong network will show companies just how effective employees working from home can be. The pandemic could revolutionize how businesses view telecommuting. Practicing social distancing, OpenCape itself is hosting its internal meetings via Zoom, a videoconferencing app.
OpenCape is working to ensure the integrity of its network during the pandemic. In addition to adopting the Federal Communications Commission “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” OpenCape is offering clients free bandwidth upgrades to help businesses accommodate remote work and telemeetings.
“As of today [Tuesday, March 31], we’re at 48 customers who have taken us up on that, everything from schools, towns, police and hospitals,” Mr. Johnston said. The bandwidth increases can typically be implemented in 24 to 48 hours.
As part of the FCC’s pledge, OpenCape has also agreed not to terminate service because of a customer’s inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and will waive any late fees that might be incurred during the outbreak.
“It is something we feel fits within our mission, that we are supposed to be serving the communities in southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod,” Mr. Johnston said.
While customers are increasing their bandwidth, bandwidth usage is down approximately 20 percent across the OpenCape network, Mr. Chrzanowski said. OpenCape serves a number of public schools, including the Barnstable, Falmouth, Mashpee, Nauset, and Sandwich public schools, which are closed. Though the schools are closed, OpenCape has expanded its bandwidth as well, should the need to be used as emergency shelters arise during the pandemic.
One OpenCape project has been put on hold because of the pandemic. OpenCape was in the process of connecting 48 Main Street businesses to its network through its Main Street connection program.
“Most of those businesses are closed right now,” Mr. Johnston said. “We were installing businesses and had gotten maybe 10 or 12 done when the virus hit.”
New connections have been installed at the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce, Eight Cousins Books and Falmouth Stamp & Coin, among others.
“We started a little slow, but when we got some momentum, the virus killed it,” Mr. Chrzanowski said. “The positive is every customer we’ve connected gave us positive feedback.”
The plan is to connect the other businesses once the pandemic passes. The businesses are being connected through a fund set up by the Falmouth Economic Development and Industrial Corporation. This fund enabled the first 62 businesses to sign up to connect to the network free of charge. The connection cost typically runs $400 to $600.
The coronavirus has also made it more challenging to provide in-person service.
“We’re getting a lot of calls asking to be connected at this location, be it their home or business,” Mr. Johnston said. “The coronavirus makes it difficult to get crews on site. Typically, we’d send a line truck with two guys in the truck, and right now, you can’t do that.”
Crews of two must be sent out in two separate trucks, and observe social distancing when working.
While OpenCape has traditionally served local governments and businesses, on Wednesday, April 1, the company announced its first residential fiber service project. OpenCape will provide fiber residential internet service to CapeBuilt Development’s 255 Main project in Hyannis. This mixed-use development features 10 residential units atop 3,500 square feet of office and retail space.
“From the technical aspect, the equipment that we will be installing in Hyannis at 255 Main is exactly the same type of equipment that we are using on the Falmouth Main Street initiative,” Mr. Johnston said.
He said OpenCape’s goal “is to pick a handful of projects like 255 Main to use as examples for towns who are considering building their own fiber networks and connecting them to the OpenCape network.”
This potentially includes Falmouth, as CCG Consultants is conducting a feasibility study regarding the development of a community fiber optic network in town. The $50,000 study was funded by the Falmouth EDIC.