Broadband project price tagged at $8 million

Thu, 07/02/2020 - 5:30pm
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During a presentation regarding the island-wide high-speed internet project, Town Finance Director Amy Land said the design and installation of the project will cost about $8 million, and voters will be asked to approve the project at the upcoming Financial Town Meeting on July 27, 2020.

Land, representing the Broadband Committee, presented a Power Point presentation. The council must approve the project before it can go to voters at the FTM.

Land stated the network would provide fiber connections to all residences and businesses with multiple data service options.

“We would be bringing to customers a high quality customer experience… this was a priority in what we put together,” said Land.

Land reminded the council of “where we are in the process” for the island wide broadband network.

“We have [Request for Proposal] responses in hand, and have selected and identified a contractor for Sertex and Crocker. We have hard numbers in hand… and a design that continues to be redefined. Sertex is the builder of the broadband network. Crocker Communications is the telecommunication end of this partnership, they have several municipal customers and they are becoming very well known in the municipal space. This network will continue to be owned by the town, operated and maintained in a contract with Sertex and Crocker, and will continue to be overseen by the town through the Town Council and Broadband Committee. All that is left now, is the authorization to move forward to secure the funding [at the Financial Town Meeting],” said Land.

Land provided examples of what the network would cost each taxpayer and/ or a customer per month. The costs were based on monthly estimates for a representative taxpayer and/or a subscriber with a $1 million property value, 50 up/50 down Mbps broadband internet with a two-year contract.

The first column Land presented shows, for comparative purposes, that current customers pay an estimated $183 per month for DirecTV, telephone, and DSL. The second column is an estimate of $105 per month for the Town Broadband internet, telephone, and Network Operation and Maintenance.

“This is not meant to show everyone’s experience. It’s meant to be a representation of a single household. Every household is going to go through their current services, and future services,” said Land, noting the estimates per month were based on “the customers we have surveyed.”

She noted some people may not want to subscribe to the system, and “that’s fine. They wouldn’t have any monthly costs, and can keep the service they have or no service. They would be obligated to participate in the infrastructure costs of the utility – that’s still the $23 [tax] a month which would be carried forward onto the annual tax bill.”

First Warden Ken Lacoste asked for the town’s IT Specialist Michele Spero to explain the 50 up/50 down broadband speed.

“Can you compare that to what we are experiencing now with the DSL?” asked Lacoste.

“What you are experiencing with the typical Verizon DSL is .728 download speed, and .128 upload speed. And that compares to 50 download and 50 upload speed,” said Spero.

“So we are going from a Volkswagen to a Ferrari?” asked Lacoste.

“Pretty much,” said Spero.

Lacoste asked Land if the broadband network would provide fiber connection to the home.

“Correct,” clarified Land.

Land went on to note the project timeline for the island wide broadband network would be “a 12-month build... It won’t be 12 months for everyone, but to get the last customer connected that is what we are looking at.”

The short-form application for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction 904 is from July 1 to July 15, with the bidding auction to begin on October 29. The licensing and engineering on the broadband project would begin in early August 2020, with the project aimed to be completed and installed by July 2021.

“On the timeline, it assumes that there is a favorable vote on July 27 [at the Financial Town Meeting], and that it is not contingent on the FCC funding,” said Land. The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is an FCC program providing up to $20.4b over 10 years for broadband and voice services.

At the Financial Town Meeting, “we would be looking for the authorization to borrow up to $8 million,” with up to $7.025 million non-recurring costs for construction and implementation, said Land.

“It is necessary in advance that the town commits to this project. We are ready to move forward if there are successful bidders in the [October] auction,” said Land.

Land added “we do intend to have some additional information sessions before the Financial Town Meeting,” with dates to be announced. The New Shoreham Broadband Committee also meets on Thursdays via Zoom for discussions.

“We have a document that is being drafted, [which] answers questions and pricing tiers. You can also email any questions to the Broadband Committee [at broadband@ new-shoreham.com],” said Land.

“It’s going to be a monumental achievement when we finally get it done. I think it’s going to change a lot of things out here, [and] keeping people able to communicate [especially during a pandemic],” said Lacoste in support.