Broadband gearing up – register now

Fri, 04/09/2021 - 11:30am
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So far, it’s the quiet project. It doesn’t have a large boat offshore, as does the cable reburial project, or even quite the splash of the water main replacement, but in many ways the broadband project is the most significant construction project of the year for Block Island.

Island property owners were able to start registering their location for “service drops” several weeks ago on the website broadbandbi.com, and to date over 1,000 have. That means there are about 700 to go. It’s important to note that registering one’s property for a service drop is not the same thing as actually registering for phone and internet services. (That will come later.) It does, though, assist in the roll-out effort by making it easier for crews to plan their work in a logical and efficient way. Plus, if a property has not been provided with a service drop during the initial roll-out, but chooses to do so in the future, charges will apply.

In most cases, registration will be easy, using the fire number of your home or building as an address. If you encounter problems, email Sertex Customer Service at getconnected@sertexbroadband.com. Those who register their property on the website should get a return email right away. If you don’t get the email, check your spam folder. If it’s there, mark it as a safe sender in order to make sure you receive future emails.

Sertex, the company installing the network, will eventually be contacting people for a consultation on individual service drops. Things to think about may include where it will be going inside the home or building, and where best then to have it actually enter the building.

Sertex construction crews will begin arriving on the island the week of April 12. They will start work in the north and western areas of the island first to complete site surveys on properties where owner approval has been secured. Color-coded flags will delineate underground construction pathways as required by state law for Dig Safe notification. Once properties are cleared for construction, crews will install micro-duct conduit for future fiber installation.

Other areas of the island will be added as they are cleared for construction. In all, there will be over 60 miles of underground drop construction on the island, and Sertex hopes to make as much progress as possible before the busy summer season begins. At this time, it is anticipated that while the main roads may be too busy to safely perform work during the summer, crews may still be able to perform installations in more remote areas of the island.

A service drop to the home can either be aerial or underground, depending on where on the island one lives, and how other utilities are delivered. Older homes most likely have aerial drops for current phone and electricity, while newer homes have underground utilities. Regardless, the fiber optic wires will connect to a network interface device outside the home, and then an optical network terminal inside the home. A wireless gateway/router and one Cat6 data cable up to 50 feet in length will also be provided. Customers will be responsible for the costs of installing more complex systems.

At the Broadband Committee’s meeting on April 1, Town Finance Director Amy Land said the project was still in the final engineering phase, although they have arrived at a final design. The Block Island Power Company is in the process of making utility poles ready for the new wires, and permits are being pursued where necessary.

There are, as legend has it, 365 ponds on Block Island, and that means there are a lot of wetlands and buffers that need permits from the R.I. Department of Environmental Management. Facilities within close proximity to a “coastal feature” also require permits from the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council. That’s a lot of permits. Facilities Director Sam Bird told The Block Island Times that the town was working on getting blanket permits from both agencies as opposed to thousands of individual ones.