I grew up in Woods Hole and spent the better part of my career on broadband internet access networks. Now I’ve come home and retired, and I think Falmouth might benefit from some of what I’ve learned.
I’ve joined with a group of fellow citizens who envision giving Falmouth another choice of internet access besides Comcast’s Xfinity or Verizon’s DSL.
We envision a community-controlled, state-of-the-art fiber optic internet access network. Inspired by this idea, Falmouth’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation hired an independent expert to flesh it out. Now the EDIC is finalizing the report. Its headline finding is that such a network is, indeed, feasible in Falmouth.
About 750 US communities have built their own networks. The technology is well-developed and the financing is available. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Falmouth’s Verizon and Comcast networks have frequent glitches, slowdowns, freeze-ups and outages—these problems are amplified by today’s COVID-induced online activity.
The network we envision would be several times faster than Comcast, much more reliable, and capacious enough to handle our summer surge. It would be priced in the same general range as what a Comcast connection costs. It would reach virtually every home and business in Falmouth.
The cost of building this network would compare favorably to such projects as the recent sewering of Falmouth’s Salt Pond neighborhoods and the last renovation of Falmouth High School. The EDIC report will address this in some detail. But, unlike some capital-intensive town projects, the costs of building our network could be dramatically reduced if Falmouth were to partner with one of several thriving businesses that build and operate networks for other US communities.
Once built, local control of the network would provide valuable advantages. We could, for example, have a local help desk staffed by Falmouth citizens. We could offer super-fast services for new businesses with clean, well-paying jobs. We could require our network to observe network neutrality, whether it is the law of the land or not. We could provide connections to the 30 percent of Falmouth school kids that qualify for the school lunch program. Whatever we decide, we would know that our monthly internet fees would stay in Falmouth as an investment in our infrastructure and our future.
In the November 3 election, the cities of Denver and Chicago passed pro-community network initiatives by landslide votes of 83 percent and 90 percent! When EDIC releases its report, Falmouth will need to decide if it wants its own community network.
I’m hoping that we will say “Yes!” as resoundingly as Denver and Chicago.
David S. Isenberg