This summer, Falmouth, Massachusetts, released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a feasibility study for a community network. The community, where the year-round population of 32,000 swells to more than 105,000 in the summer, has investigated the possibilities of a publicly owned fiber optic network for the past several years. In early September, Christopher visited the east coast and appeared on FalmouthCommunityTV to share information with the greater Falmouth community.
Courtney Bird, who has lead the effort, provides information about how Falmouth has gotten this far. He describes how surprised he was when, at public meetings to discuss better local connectivity, large numbers of people appeared in support of the idea of a publicly owned network. Bird also goes through the steps they took to establish a committee to examine the problem, seek out solutions, and find funding for the study.
Falmouth has received better than expected responses to the RFP, notes Bird, and while they originally expected to decide on a firm by mid-September, he anticipates the decision may be delayed due to the number of proposals. Bird offers updates for local Falmouth and explains what they should expect from the study and from the process.
Peter Cook, who is also on the Committee for a Falmouth Community Network, is IT Director for the local library and a former computer science professor. Peter describes what the Falmouth hopes to learn from the feasibility study. From funding to potential models to possible services, Peter gets into the details of what the community wants from the study. Peter also moves beyond to describe next steps. Falmouth is thinking ahead in order to be prepared and nimble; they encourage locals to stay involved and stay up-to-date.
Learning from Others
Peter and Courtney and the rest of the Committee understand that taking advantage of lessons learned from other communities will help. Christopher answers questions and offers suggestions based on years of research and documented results.
The panel discusses ways to keep the community engaged in the project and the technical needs in the Cape. They review possibilities such as, aging in place, high-quality Internet access for students, economic development, and alternative uses for fiber optic infrastructure. The conversation also covers opposition campaigns by large corporate monopolies and false claims that local networks have failed.
Christopher notes common concerns that communities should keep in mind when considering competing with large Internet access companies. They talk about benefits of living in a community served by a municipal network and discuss specific examples from different places around the U.S. where local networks are accountable to subscribers. The panel looks at some of the changes in streaming and possibilities for Falmouth and similar communities.
Courtney, Peter, and Christopher also discuss some of the unique possibilities for Falmouth. The community is near the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, already has some fiber in the community from OpenCape, and has populations that are interested in working from home. With a widely available fiber optic network, the community could open up opportunities to technical, artistic, and other entrepreneurial sectors.
The show runs about an hour and even if you’re not following the events in Falmouth, the conversation provides valuable information. If your community’s researching the possibility of a publicly owned network, watching the show is a good way to start a check list of questions you should ask consultants and actions to take moving forward.