Broadband gearing up for a busy spring

Mon, 02/28/2022 - 1:30am

Expect the highly anticipated broadband installation on Block Island to swing into high gear in the next couple of weeks. Two major hurdles have been crossed recently. The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council has issued its island-wide permit for underground trenching on properties within its jurisdiction, and Verizon has made enough significant progress in utility pole “make-ready” work and licensing that Sertex can begin stringing its aerial fiber-optic cable. The company will also send a second truck and crew to perform underground installations.

Finance Director Amy Land said that although Verizon still needs to issue seven licenses, the 18 recently released “complete the backbone of the system.” She added that even though progress with Verizon had been slow, the island’s experience with Verizon was much better than what communities on the mainland undergoing their own broadband installations were experiencing. She also said the town had not been “sitting waiting patiently,” but had applied “direct and aggressive interaction.”

The New Shoreham Broadband Committee received the good news at its meeting on Feb. 18, and determined it was time to set a deadline for those who have not yet signed up for installation of the fiber to their homes or businesses. Of the close to 2,000 properties on the island, approximately 100 have not yet signed up.

Land wants those people to know that installation of the drop and basic equipment and wiring in the home is free – but only if it’s performed during the initial installation period going on now. Land wants people to know their tax dollars are paying for it, regardless of whether you actually use it or not. (Signing up for the drop installation does not mean one must sign up for any of the services that will be offered, which include phone and, most likely, three speeds of internet.)
Land also said the town will make every effort to reach out to those people who haven’t signed up, including sending them a notice by certified mail. Those letters will start going out in the beginning of April. The deadline to respond was set at April 30, 2022.

Off and on the committee has had conversations about the necessity of back-up battery systems for the broadband systems. Most computer users are familiar with the devices but may wonder why it may be needed for their broadband system. If you plan on switching carriers for a landline phone, it turns out a fiber-fed phone system must use electricity from your home, unlike a phone system that relies on copper wires such as the system currently in place on Block Island. That means you won’t be able to use your landline in a power outage unless it is connected to a battery back-up system similar to ones used for most home-office computers.

While there are a variety of back-up systems available, technical advisor Michelle Spero, who has left town employment but is working as a consultant on the project, recommended offering customers a “one-page” handout showing small, medium and large back-up systems.
“Someone said be sure the hardware store has them,” said Land, noting that they often have to be replaced every couple of years, so after the first two years there could be a “mass turnover” in the devices.
“The hardware store will have to build an addition,” joked Spero.

If you haven’t signed up your property yet and wish to do so, go to the website and click on “register” at the top of the page.