Pieces falling together for broadband

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 7:45pm

The most recent meeting of the Block Island Broadband Committee was brisk and to the point.

“Things are good,” said town Finance Director Amy Land, who has been spearheading the effort to move the process forward. The Committee has been focused on installing a high-speed internet system for the Community Anchor Institution network, a group of buildings that includes the Block Island School, the Police Department and Fire Barn, Town Hall, the Island Free Library and the Medical Center.

“All the agreements and contracts are in place,” Land said, listing the multiple contracts that had be negotiated to get to this point.

“Our nails are starting to grow again,” said town IT Director Michelle Spero, who has been working alongside Land.

Land said the town had good working relationships with the designers and installers of the project — companies called OSHEAN and Certex — with work expecting to start on or around Dec. 15, with the last pole being strung with fiber optic cable about a month later.

Town Facilities Manager Sam Bird said that 11 of the 80 telephone poles within the AIC district needed replacing, a project that is currently underway. Bird said he also needs to secure a final letter from Deepwater Wind indicating that a conduit that was installed at the mainland substation that will connect the mainland to the island’s fiber optic network does, indeed, belong to Block Island.

“It’s not holding anything up,” said Bird.

The telecom building for the island has been ordered, said Land. Site work at the Safety Complex location on Beach Avenue is expected to begin early December and be completed by the end of January.

“Can you believe it?” asked Committee Chair Lucinda Morrison, completely rhetorically.

Land also said the project “is still on budget.”

With that, Morrison asked when the project would be launched. “What are we looking at? Sometime in January?”

“It always depends on the weather,” said Land. “We don’t want to put a date on it.”

In other news, Land said that the town of New Shoreham had been invited into a group called the Neighborly Community Broadband Accelerator that helps communities get “access to information and boost local resilience self-reliance,” according to literature about the group handed out by Land. “Communities in the program are guided through the full process of establishing a broadband network, starting with an educational curriculum in partnership with industry experts…”

New Shoreham is one of 35 towns joining the network out of more than 100 applications.

“We’re excited to have another avenue to work with,” said Land.