BIPCo to seek broadband connection

After CAI network is completed
Thu, 12/13/2018 - 6:15pm

The Block Island Times has learned that the Block Island Power Company is seeking connection to the broadband fiber network once the Community Anchor Institution project has been completed. BIPCo and the town agree that the utility company should be on the list for connecting to the fiber optics that are embedded in National Grid’s sea2shore cable.

The $550,000 CAI network, which will link the town’s municipal buildings, includes Town Hall, the Public Safety Building, Island Free Library, Block Island School and the Medical Center. According to Amy Land, the town’s Finance Director, who has been spearheading the broadband project, the CAI project will be completed this winter.

“BIPCo has informally asked if they could be connected,” Land told The Times. “At the point when the town is ready to do an expansion round of the CAI network it would be a policy question taken up by the Town Council.” 

“There’s a need there,” said Town Manager Ed Roberge. “We agree with the need. I don’t think the Town Council would give it a second guess.” Roberge said BIPCo needs a broadband connection to accommodate its new technology and record keeping systems.

Jeffery Wright, the President of BIPCo, a private entity, said, “We will not be picked up in phase one of their (CAI network) project due to restrictions” associated with that project. “However, we have been told that we are on the list to connect to the network after they are up and running.”

As for when the CAI network will be operational, town officials told The Times that the CAI network installation is underway, with construction of the infrastructure to begin soon. The fiber will be strung on BIPCo’s poles — from the police station to the Medical Center — after the telecom building is installed. The town will be utilizing four of the eight strands of fiber it is leasing from National Grid for $1 per year for 20 years for the build.

“We’re on track for completion this winter,” said Land. “The telecom building foundation was poured (on Monday).” The telecom building,  currently under construction behind the New Shoreham Police Station, will be an 11- by 20-foot concrete prefab building that will have a generator and house equipment supporting the broadband network.

“The first part of the build has begun,” said Roberge, who noted that Sertex, LLC, the Connecticut-based utility services company, has been prepping for the installation. “They will start stringing the fiber in short order.” OSHEAN, a non-profit, Rhode Island-based coalition will facilitate broadband services on the island.

Roberge said fiber will be accessed from a manhole cover across the street from the Police Station and connected to the telecom building. Roberge also said the prefab building has not yet arrived on the island.

Roberge said he expects the CAI network to be completed in the early part of 2019. “It’s exciting. It will generate a lot of interest once it is here. You think about how it will serve the island’s educational needs, the Medical Center, library; public safety communication, and the connection to the mainland. This will serve quite a cross section of needs, and support the community quite well.”

Town officials have said that once the CAI network installation has been completed the network will be expanded island-wide to accommodate residential and commercial properties.