Falmouth Moving Quickly to a Fiber Future

OpenCape Extends Fiberoptic Invitation To Residents, Small Businesses

By RYAN BRAY/ Falmouth Enterprise

Town officials want to extend high speed internet service offered through the OpenCape Network to residents and local businesses.

The OpenCape Network, which went live in 2013, is a fiber optic network stretching 475 miles across 90 towns through southeastern Massachusetts, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, and parts of Rhode Island. In Falmouth, the network has already brought high speed internet to 19 of the town’s municipal buildings. Now OpenCape, along with its operating partner, CapeNet, wants to gauge the interest of residents and small businesses in connecting into the network.

“I think [Falmouth is] moving quickly toward a fiber future,” Steven Johnston, executive director of the OpenCape Network, said when reached by phone on Tuesday, March 15.

Mr. Johnston updated members of the Falmouth Economic Development and Industrial Corporation Tuesday on plans to bring residents and businesses into the network. With a $12,000 grant from the Cape Cod Economic Development Collaborative, OpenCape plans to host a survey on its soon-to-be-redesigned website where residents interested in tying into the network can answer questions. The survey is expected to be available on the network’s new website in early April, Mr. Johnston said.

The network can only effectively service residents and businesses in areas where demand, or “density,” is high, Mr. Johnston said. Information gathered through the survey will be used to identify the highest concentration of interested residents and businesses throughout town.

“I can’t say that hooking up all of Falmouth makes sense, but pockets of Falmouth make sense,” he told the EDIC.

OpenCape staff are looking to partner with other investors to help cover the cost of expanding service to residents and businesses. The EDIC, which contributed $45,000 toward a 2006 OpenCape study to get the network up and running, could be asked to contribute money to help the expansion, EDIC member Jay Zavala said.

With the rapid rate in which technology continues to change, EDIC member and Falmouth selectman Susan L. Moran asked how long the network will be effective and serviceable to those who pay in to use it. Mr. Johnston said the network will deliver high-speed service to users as far out as 50 years.

Ms. Moran also asked about the possibility of Comcast and other providers eventually offering better service than that provided through OpenCape. Mr. Johnston said there is a “cultural shift” away from certain services, namely cable, in favor of streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix. The reduced demand for cable, he said, puts Comcast and other providers at a disadvantage when it comes to financing fiber optic improvements.

“For the next 50 years, fiber will be a part of our lives,” he said. “You’re not going to have buyer’s remorse two years down the road.”

Mr. Johnston said OpenCape expects to gather information quickly through the survey, and that an informational meeting will be hosted for the public later this spring. The survey could also save the town $80,000 it would otherwise need to pay a consultant to gauge interest from residents and businesses about joining the network.

“I’d rather use the low cost or no cost options first,” EDIC member James E. Fox said.

“We can tell them, ‘Here’s where the demand is,’” Mr. Johnston said. “We can give them top level data. If we can do some of that for free, it will be good for us and good for the town.”