In response to your recent article titled “Falmouth group seeks internet alternative,” I ask this: Does Falmouth really need an internet alternative?
The proponents of the internet alternative have offered a number of laudable goals and benefits in support of their proposal. Nevertheless, I wonder if they have considered the alternative’s downside as well. While the results of a network feasibility study may be only months away, there are some answers to questions that should be considered when these results are released.
For example, what will be the overall cost of the network and who will pay for it? Network construction is not cheap and a quick glance at a brochure produced by the Falmouth Community Network implies that the town (i.e., the taxpayer) will be responsible for its cost. Municipally owned networks built to compete with incumbent telephone and cable companies are rarely profitable. Take a look at the unprofitable Groton, Connecticut, Public Utilities’ cable television enterprise, which after several years of running in the red, pulled the plug and sold its cable network for cents on the dollar.
It’s great that Falmouth already has an internet infrastructure that crosses the town, but there will be a cost to connect individual residences and businesses to that infrastructure. Network costs totaling millions of dollars, even spread across 30,500 taxpayers (residences, businesses and seasonal single-family homes as noted by the Falmouth Community Network in its brochure), can be expensive and questionable, especially when these same services are already available from existing wireline and wireless providers.
There will also be a cost to the internet alternative to attach its facilities to telephone poles (in terms of dollars and aesthetics) that will have to be factored into the overall construction budget. Other expenses such as those to directly connect residential and business premises to the alternative’s facilities on telephone poles will also have to be considered.
Finally, what will be the ongoing maintenance costs and the cost to replace network components damaged from weather events or motor vehicle accidents? Have all of these costs been factored into the feasibility study?
Regarding attaching network facilities to utility poles throughout the town, what is the estimated time frame when construction is expected to begin? When will service be available to customers? Utility pole studies, surveys and agreements with the pole owners will have to be performed, often taking several months to complete before construction can begin.
Also, state regulatory approvals to build on town streets may be required. These approvals could further delay construction. Once all of these approvals have been granted, construction could again be delayed as construction crews are contracted to build the network facilities. Providers such as Comcast, Verizon and other fiber optic attachers are building their own internet facilities and will be competing with the internet alternative for the same construction crews.
Finally, by the time construction begins, wireless carriers’ 5G deployment may be well-underway in Falmouth. Wireless internet is currently available in town through 4G and emerging 5G technologies, which up to now have been sufficient for subscribers to receive and transmit all forms of data, including video programming.
Also, as you drive through Falmouth, small cell antennas are already in use as the wireless carriers continue to improve their 4G services and internet access. Additional small cell antennas are expected to be deployed as service and customer demand requires. These antennas are the precursor to the 5G antennas and that technology may be closer to Falmouth residents and businesses than initially expected. Thus, demand for the internet alternative could be reduced by the wireless 4G and 5G services as well as any competitive responses offered by the incumbent carriers. Any losses in forecasted demand for the internet alternative could make that service more expensive and less appealing to potential subscribers. Have these factors been considered in the feasibility study?
On its surface, the internet alternative offers some advantages to Falmouth residents and businesses. However, such a network also presents challenges that need to be carefully considered and deliberated. Hopefully, some, or all of these challenges will be addressed by the anticipated feasibility study and I look forward to the results of that study and any resulting dialog.
Peter A. Pescosolido lives in East Falmouth.
- The Year the Internet Thought I Was MacKenzie Bezos – WIRED
- Easy ways to get the fastest internet connection possible in your home – Komando
- Elon Musk says Starlink internet private beta to begin in roughly three months, public beta in six – TechCrunch
- Verizon is canceling home internet installations during the pandemic – The Verge
- Ethiopia’s internet shutdowns are disrupting millions of lives – Quartz Africa
- How to check if your service provider is throttling your internet – CNET
- 8 charts on internet use around the world as countries grapple with COVID-19 – Pew Research Center
- How to boost your home internet speeds while you’re stuck at home: Tech Support – Yahoo Money
- Welcome (Back) to the Appointment Internet – New York Magazine