OpenCape Calls for Commnwealth to Invest $400 Million in Fiber Connectivity
8:09AM September 24, 2021
CONTACT: Joyce McMahon
OPENCAPE CALLS ON COMMONWEALTH TO INCREASE INVESTMENT IN BROADBAND TO $400 MILLION
Barnstable based tech company recommends use of ARPA funds to support investment in future focused connectivity for residents, healthcare, public safety, and economic development throughout the Commonwealth.
BARNSTABLE, MA, SEPTEMBER XX, 2021 – OpenCape, the not-for-profit technology company that owns and operates the 100% fiber optic network on the Cape, Islands and Southeastern Massachusetts, called on members of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Ways & Means to allocate some $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds toward improving Internet access in the Commonwealth. Governor Baker has proposed $100 million of the state’s approximate $5.3 billion allocation, to close the digital divide and increase broadband internet access.
In his written testimony to the Committee chairs, Steven Johnston, Executive Director of OpenCape, detailed how an increase to a minimum of $400 million would allow community-focused fiber providers to make immediate and substantive investments in delivering robust future-focused connectivity in the Commonwealth. As an example, Johnston cites mission driven OpenCape, which has a service footprint that touches approximately 20% of Massachusetts residents and businesses. Johnston presents a scenario that, if a 20% allocation of a $400M expansion were made, OpenCape could proceed quickly to address areas of core concern, which could include:
Health and Public Safety:
- Connect more than 100 Medical facilities and offices
- Further expand robust and subsidized service to Public Safety entities such as Police, Fire and EMS departments.
- Add fiber coverage to remaining unconnected schools and educational facilities/shelters
- Build new undersea fiber to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket
Addressing the Digital Divide
- Expand on existing Internet service to Gateway Cities and unserved/underserved communities.
- Continue collaboration with towns and the region to expand affordable, robust, future focused residential service.
- Significantly increase downtown business/main street district connections.
- Ensure robust connections for the hospitality sector and non-profit organizations.
- Connect businesses and research institutions that are part of the vibrant Blue Economy on Cape Cod and the Islands.
Johnston presented OpenCape’s position that the Commonwealth must strive to be a national frontrunner in fiber optic network expansion and access. “Massachusetts, as a center of innovation and technology, we must lead the nation in future -focused connectivity to support our economic, educational, health and social justice goals. A baseline $400 million investment in expanding connectivity will help us move toward achieving strength and equity.”
He highlighted the comparative investments governors and legislatures across the country have made to benefit their residents. “ Other states, including Maine, Maryland, California, Iowa, and Virginia, have made significant investments in broadband infrastructure and initiatives that commit consequential dollars towards residential Internet. Virginia recently allocated over $700 million for broadband, which equates to $82.30 per resident, while Massachusetts is currently proposing spending only $14.70 per resident.” He also noted that while the Commonwealth has already, appropriately and effectively, invested more than $100 million in Western Mass to support connectivity efforts over the past five years, other areas of the state have received no such investment.
In addition to the recommendation that the state allocate at least $400 million for fiber optic network expansion, OpenCape also strongly stated their support for 100/100 minimums (100mbps download and 100mbps upload.) In their testimony, OpenCape asserted that the current 25/3 Mbps standard is “unacceptable and was insufficient a decade ago.” Instead, Johnston maintains that Massachusetts’ standards for service should be focused on the ever-increasing current and future needs of residents and businesses and investing in lasting technology that has growth potential.
The final recommendation included in the official letter was a strong argument for improving competition and enhancing consumer choice in Internet services. “Providing affordable, robust, and reliable service is the only way to ensure that every resident—regardless of income, race, ethnicity, or any other demographic category — can access future-focused connectivity, affordably and easily.”
If funding were available, OpenCape is poised to implement a variety of broadband initiatives. The State House News Service reported on September 13 that House Speaker Mariano said that passing a bill to allocate some of the state's American Rescue Plan Act funds before Thanksgiving is not "an unrealistic goal."
OpenCape Corporation is a 501c3 nonprofit technology company headquartered in Barnstable Village at the Barnstable County Complex. OpenCape owns and operates a state-of-the-art 100% fiber optic network built to serve local governments, businesses, and residents of Barnstable, Bristol, Plymouth, Dukes and Nantucket counties. For more information, please visit www.opencape.org