Broadband group narrows its options

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 8:45am

And then there were two.

A totally wireless digital system for the Island was rejected last week by the New Shoreham Broadband Committee as too costly.

The unanimous decision on Thursday leaves two other options being considered. One, a “fiber to the home” scenario, would wire all but the most difficult and costly buildings directly. The other is a fiber/wireless plan to split the installations based on yet-to-be-determined considerations.

One benefit of the fiber is “all the experts say it’s the most upgradable,” said Bill McKernan, Chair of the Committee. This is important because of the rapid changes in technology, and the need to keep future expenses — both replacement of capital and operating costs — under control.

According to previous analyses, 40 to 50 miles of fiber would be needed to wire all of the Island. The original proposal received from Crocker Communications last year estimated a cost of at least $8 million to install the infrastructure, but members of the committee believe this could be reduced substantially by using wireless or other technology for the most costly pieces of the installation — primarily homes that are more isolated than others.

Several members of the committee admitted that there was a long way to go in finalizing the project, including a lot of detail work. Since no funds are allocated for the buildout — or the planning, for that matter — even a startup budget will have to be developed, requested, and approved by the Town Council before much gets done.

A portion of the discussion steered to how the project would be funded.

“Who pays what is a policy question,” said McKernan. It was noted that some combination of taxes and user fees would have to be determined, with the community value of upgrading public services such as the school, fire and police departments, and Town Hall taken into consideration.

The next step for the board is to meet with Michelle Spero, the town’s IT manager, and Tillson Technologies, the consulting firm already working with the town,  to determine what needs to be done — and how much it would cost — to produce a request for information. Then the Committee will ask for the Town Council’s authorization — including funding — to move forward.

The Committee meets every Thursday at 1 p.m. at Town Hall. It was suggested, however, that a new regular meeting time would allow more attendance from key people.