Broadband Committee unveils new website:

Thu, 02/11/2021 - 6:00pm

On Thursday, Feb. 4, at the beginning of the Broadband Committee’s virtual meeting, New Shoreham Finance Director Amy Land announced that the new website was ready to be launched the next day. It’s a step that many have been waiting for – a first look at what’s ahead for Block Island.

Land invited the members of the committee to test the website after the meeting, but cautioned them that the site was not final, and that they “would be adding more as we go.” At this point, users are asked simply to register with the website and verify their fire number – the unique identification number assigned to every building on the island for the use of the island fire department to locate emergencies.

When one clicks on the “Register” link, a box will come up asking for the fire number. If you don’t see yours, or don’t know it, enter something like “ocean” and a message will come up saying: “We did not find a match for that address. Please click here to continue.” A box will pop up where you may enter contact information and leave a message.

You aren’t actually committing yourself to anything, service-wise, when registering. The service and pricing tiers provided are not yet final. Early registration is a jumping off point for Sertex, the company performing the physical installation of the network and planning the rollout of the “fiber drops.” Sertex told The Block Island Times that: “Coordination is required with property owners before any construction can begin in order to secure permissions for access and authorization of the drop route.”

Broadband Committee member Kristine Monje asked Land if there was anything on the website, particularly when it came to services, “that will confuse people?”

“I guarantee there will be something there that will cause confusion,” replied Land. “Initially it’s just getting basic information [out to people].”

Resident Kim Gaffett asked the committee: “Will someone like me be able to register someone else?”

“You have to represent that you are the owner or have authority to act as an agent for the owner,” said Land. “We know that will probably happen in a number of instances.”

Sertex also told The Times that: “Underground drops to individual properties will be planned in geographical waves.” The company has been mobilizing equipment and brought “thousands of feet of micro duct onto Block Island in preparation for construction of the new island-wide broadband network.” For weeks now, many have seen small flags on the ground. They are color-coded and indicate such things as existing underground utilities (under the Dig Safe program) with different colors for various types of utilities. White flags indicate where Sertex’s underground installation is planned to go; however no excavation will be performed without the property owner’s permission. It is the property owner’s obligation to inform Sertex about any other underground infrastructure such as an electric, underground dog fence.

Just what a fiber drop looks like is illustrated in a graphic on the website. There is also a question/answer (FAQS) section that seeks to anticipate as many questions as possible that people may have. The fiber drop will go to an entry point outside the building and attach to equipment inside, and appointments will be made to schedule inside services.

New Shoreham will be the first town in Rhode Island with a publicly owned fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network. It will utilize four strands of the submarine fiber optic cable in the National Grid electric transmission cable from the mainland. “We anticipate building 62 miles of underground drop footage to connect the island,” says Sertex President and CEO Michael Solitro.