Five into one: Hi-speed network goes live

Thu, 03/14/2019 - 7:30pm

It seemed like everybody at the Block Island School was abuzz on Tuesday morning.

When asked what the fuss was all about, Lynne Cunningham, sitting at the front desk, said excitedly, “The internet is working the way it should be!” She clapped her hands.

The community anchor network of five institutions — the school, Island Free Library, the Safety Complex, Town Hall and the Medical Center — were quietly hooked into the high-speed fiber optic network on Monday, March 11.

Kristine Monje, the school principal who also sits on the Broadband Committee, said she was “really happy. It’s working. It’s quick. It’s just amazing.” She pointed to the results of an internet speed test that had just been completed that included the words: “Your internet speed is very fast.”

Kristin Baumann, Director of the Island Free Library, echoed those words: “Fast and superfast and awesome, but there is more work to be done.” She said the library, which has been a popular hotspot for island visitors seeking a public internet connection, “had limped along for years” but with the installation of the new hi-speed network “the whole game changed for us.”

Baumann said the library will now be better able to access support from the state library consortium, a program that is internet-based.

There will be some technology upgrades needed at the library because of the internet’s speed, but Baumann said “everything went smoothly.”

“The Medical Center is up and running. Our electronic health records are more responsive. No more waiting to enter in information. We don’t notice the internet dropping off. It’s very exciting,” said Administrative Assistant Kyra Ernst. “My job just got a lot easier.”

Town Finance Director Amy Land, who has been working on the project for two years, said, “To me, this is one of those things that will significantly change the direction of Block Island, particularly the viability of the year-round community.” For the institutions in the community anchor network, Land said this was a “game-changer.”

But she added, “there’s so much more to do it’s hard to stop and savor it.”

“It was just so pleasant to hear people happy about the internet,” said the town’s IT Specialist, Michele Spero, who has been with the project since 2013. “This has been something we’ve dreamt of and worked hard for and now we’ve seen it come to fruition. It’s amazing. It feels surreal.” 

She called the hook-up on Monday a “soft transition” just to ensure things went well.

She did point out that the entire network is not quite up yet. The Fire and Rescue Department’s internet hook-up, which will be built off the Police Department’s installation, has yet to be completed, but that should be done fairly quickly, she said.

Spero also said there was a little follow-up to be done for the entire network, but nothing major. “Just typical project close-outs,” she said.

There is no rest for the weary, though. The next phase — wiring every house and business on the island — comes next.

“I think I’ll take one day off,” Spero joked.