A fiber-optic cable proposed to be part of Deepwater cable to the island

Mon, 03/08/2010 - 5:00am
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3/06/10 — While developer Deepwater Wind and the state is still are still in the process of determining the details and the cost of an underwater electric cable connecting Block Island to the mainland, OSHEAN (Ocean State Higher Education Economic Development and Administrative Network), a non-profit Rhode Island group, is working to piggyback on the cable project to provide a fiber-optic line for Block Island.

OSHEAN (pronounced ocean) is applying for $30 million in federal stimulus money to install approximately 300 miles of fiber optic cables throughout Rhode Island. The proposal will focus on connecting schools, municipal buildings and health centers with high-speed Internet access.

The Block Island portion of OSHEAN’s proposal would use the Deepwater cable to make installation of the fiber-optics cost effective. The underwater fiber-optics line is estimated to cost $150,000 and would be installed in conjunction with Deepwater’s electric cable.

“The fiber-optic cable is something we’ve been looking at since we started,” Deepwater’s Chief Development Officer Paul Rich said Tuesday. “We’re willing to work [with OSHEAN] to include it.”

However, the fiber-optic cable OSHEAN is proposing would not be for commercial use. Private citizens on Block Island would not have the option of using the cable for Internet access. It would be used solely to provide high-speed access for municipal institutions like the school, the health center and the library.

“OSHEAN does not provide services directly to consumers but rather to ‘anchor institutions’— schools, library, health care facilities municipal offices, police,” OSHEAN spokeswoman Dyana Koelsch said in an e-mail. “The connection would likely be through OSHEAN’s member RINET — which already provides services to Block Island schools.”

Koelsch said that while there is competition for stimulus money across the country OSHEAN is confident that its proposal would be an attractive one to fund. According to a press release from OSHEAN, it expects to create “over 70 new high wage, high skilled direct jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs” in Rhode Island.

“This is a great example of two entities working in unison to take full advantage of not only federal stimulus money, but new energy initiatives for the betterment of the state,” OSHEAN President/CEO George Loftus said. “Without [Deepwater’s] cooperation, extending the cable to Block Island would be cost prohibitive.”