February Infrastructure: Consolidating models of broadband access

At its January meeting, the Infrastructure Committee discussed a converging interest in access to fiber and broadband on Cape Cod, due in part to the COVID pandemic. The topic comes up across the Cape —from local government and the business community to schools and churches.

It was reported that the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce felt the Tech Council might take the lead on organizing efforts promoting broadband, since our members have appreciable expertise. In the past, the Tech Council helped lead the Cape Cod Connect effort, which encouraged incumbent providers to increase broadband access and other providers to come to the Cape.

Members of the Infrastructure Committee have heard that our legislative delegation is interested in supporting broadband on the Cape. For example, Senator Cyr is one of the members of the state legislature who wrote to Comcast about their data cap.

If state and federal money does become available, it is important for the Cape to be well positioned to make a case and show a track record of success. As it stands now, the Cape has the capacity and the knowledge, but lacks funding.

The Committee discussed the possibility of an Eastern Massachusetts Broadband Coalition, which would work to achieve parity with funds going to the western part of the state. We have a contingent that realizes the impact connectivity will have on our communities in terms of who’s living here, especially now that people can work anywhere.

The Smarter Cape Summit came out of the desire to educate, helping municipalities and individuals make educated decisions. Issues pertaining to connectivity are more meaningful to individuals now that people are working and learning from home.

If the Tech Council takes the lead on working to increase WiFi access on the Cape, we have connections in multiple places, including Cape Light Compact, Open Cape, and organizations that work with municipalities.

It was suggested that members of the Infrastructure committee begin by organizing available information so there’s a single place to direct people for answers. There are educational materials related to large and small communities implementing municipal broadband which may provide a roadmap for towns on the Cape. A town hall or summit could likewise give town managers an opportunity to see a model like Falmouth’s and ask questions relative to applying it to their own towns.

One member volunteered to begin this work. Other members will follow up with our state representatives.

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