Town hires islandwide broadband consultant

To draft RFP for installing network
Thu, 06/27/2019 - 7:00pm
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Taking swift action at its June 19 meeting, the Town Council voted unanimously to approve the hiring of a broadband consultant for creating an RFP to solicit contractors interested in installing the islandwide broadband network. The council also unanimously approved expanding the town’s Community Anchor Institution network to include the Highways Department garage and the Block Island Utility District, both located along the CAI fiber optic route on Ocean Avenue. 

The Broadband Committee has said the proposed timetable for the islandwide RFP to be issued is early September with responses due back by mid-October of 2019.

Finance Director Amy Land, who is helping to spearhead the broadband projects, said $125,000 has been allocated to fund broadband consultant work related to the islandwide project. “The next step in the process is to engage a consultant to help us draft the RFP,” said Land, prior to the council’s vote. She noted that the town received five responses from consultants around the country who were interested in the project. “The recommendation is that Mission Broadband” be hired as the consultant, she said.

A June 19 memo from the Broadband Committee to the council notes that, “There is a fixed base amount of $21,150 for development of the RFP with additional costs up to an estimated $58,950 depending on the scope of services implemented: evaluation of submitted proposals, contract negotiations and the number of responses received.”

The memo also notes that each of the five proposals “was evaluated by the Broadband Committee based upon a combination of qualifications, experience, project approach, work plan and price. Staff conducted phone interviews with two of the finalists.”

“Mission Broadband was determined to be the consulting firm best qualified to meet the town’s needs.”

For information regarding Mission Broadband go to: https://www.missionbroadband.com/.

Mission Broadband is a company recently formed by Jim Rogers, the principal of ProInfoNet – the consultant team that assisted the Town with the CAI Network RFP.  The following is fom the executive summary of their RFP proposal that was submitted to the town:

“Recently, to focus on the needs of towns that lack adequate broadband, Jim formed the new company Mission Broadband, Inc. While Mission Broadband and ProInfoNet share resources and staff, Jim has added additional employees to Mission Broadband who have specific municipal broadband experience.  The combined resources and experience of ProInfoNet and Mission Broadband under Jim’s leadership as president strongly qualifies us for the Town of New Shoreham’s Professional Broadband Consulting Services project.”

CAI network expansion

The $550,000 CAI broadband network, which went live this past spring, connects the public safety building, town hall, the Island Free Library, the Block Island School and the Block Island Medical Center to the fiber optics embedded in National Grid’s sea2shore cable.

Town Manager Ed Roberge said the CAI project came in six percent under budget, which allows for expansion of the network to include the Highways Department’s garage. The Block Island Utility District, which was also given approval to connect, will fund its own connection to the CAI network.

Per a June 17 memo from Roberge to the Town Council, “Implementation of the Highways garage connection is estimated at $8,400. There are no incremental annual operating costs for the Highways Department; savings will be realized from abandoning the existing internet services.”

The memo also notes that the town has worked with OSHEAN, the CAI network’s service provider, “to develop network design options for incorporating new sites, especially on the municipal network. The town has solicited quotes from SERTEX for lateral construction, which can be performed as a change order to the existing contract. The town intends this to be the first of several CAI network expansions as we extend broadband service to other critical anchor facilities in parallel with the development of a residential and commercial network.”

During the discussion at the council’s June 19 meeting, Second Warden André Boudreau asked Kristin Baumann, director of the Island Free Library, how the broadband service was working at the building. 

“The truth is, I have mixed feelings about it,” said Baumann. The staff has experienced issues with the service and installation of equipment at the library. “We’re going to keep working on it. There’s work to be done,” she said.

Are there issues “just with the library, or with the other institutions, as well?” asked Boudreau of Land.

“The library seems to be having — their results are not where they want them to be,” said Land, noting that some kinks were expected. “We’re continuing to probe, not only their issues, but everybody else’s as well. That is not to say that these weren’t expected. You can bring fiber to the buildings, but that doesn’t mean they are going to work perfectly.” Land said the Broadband Committee was reviewing the network’s performance, and intends to address its issues moving forward.

The next town council meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 1 at 7 p.m.