Broadband breaking ground
There was an air of excitement among the members of the Block Island Broadband Committee when they met on Thursday, Feb. 14, as one item after another that will make this long-standing effort to bring high-speed internet to the island finally were checked off as completed or about to be.
The months and months of paperwork and learning curves were finally manifesting into some kind of reality, as Town Facilities Manager Sam Bird, at the beginning of the meeting, announced that the splice at the mainland connection in Narragansett was underway.
“That’s for us?” asked Chair Lucinda Morrison.
“That’s the splice. That’s what’s happening. It’s a physical step forward,” said Bird.
The town’s IT specialist Michelle Spero then ticked off several more milestones, some that have happened and some that are imminent.
Although the Block Island Power Company has been replacing old and damaged poles all over the island, Spero reported that the last pole replacement for the smaller Community Anchor Institution network was completed on Feb. 3. That was a damaged pole located in front of The Empire Theatre on Water Street.
On Feb. 8, the town received the pole attachment licenses from Verizon so that the technology can be physically attached to the poles, which are co-owned by that carrier.
“Is this for the whole island?” asked member Kristine Monje.
“Just for the CAI,” said Spero.
“But now you’re familiar with how it’s done,” said Monje.
“Very familiar,” said Town Finance Director Amy Land. “The more BIPCo is doing pole replacement, the better the poles will look when we get to them.”
On Feb. 14, the mainland splice was completed, as Bird also reported.
Spero said the companies that were designing the network and installing it, Sertex and OSHEAN, had tested the splice. The results, said Spero at the meeting, were not yet in. But on Feb. 20, Spero reported that the test results were positive.
“We successfully completed the splice on the Block Island side with National Grid on the 19th, and that worked,” said Spero.
On Monday, Feb. 18, crews from Certex started preliminary work that will allow the fiber optic cables to run from pole to pole.
On Feb. 20, Spero said, “As we speak they’re pulling fiber into the Medical Center. That’s pretty exciting.” Fiber was also pulled into town hall on that date, Spero said
On Friday, Feb.22, Spero said that a crane and building for the telecom center, which will be installed behind the Public Safety Complex, will arrive, but Spero cautioned that the arrival date was dependent on the weather and also the tides. The building is big and heavy.
“We do have that chance of a weather event,” said Land.
“It’s one of the things that keeps us up,” said Spero. (The weather forecast for that day seemed fine at press time.)
There are five facilities within the Community Anchor Institution network: the Medical Center, the Island Free Library, the Block Island School, the Public Safety Complex, and Town Hall.
Given that, Monje asked if the facilities will “go online at different times?”
“We’re looking to bring everyone on at the same time,” said Spero. The network is expected to go live in March.