OpenCape: A Community-Owned Fiber Network


In 2006, Southeastern Massachusetts had communications problems. Inadequate bandwidth, limited broadband coverage, and poor cell phone service threatened to hold them back as the rest of the nation moved ahead. But that year an extraordinary public meeting of over a hundred local business, government, and community leaders tackled those problems head-on. Their conclusions:

  • Future economic development would require a completely new telecommunications infrastructure advanced enough to attract new businesses.
  • Our businesses and research institutions were finding it increasingly hard to compete globally due to the high cost and poor availability of broadband.
  • Each year we were losing thousands of talented workers who sought better jobs elsewhere, where broadband opened new doors.
  • Local government telecom and data system inefficiency often meant higher taxes and limited investments elsewhere.
  • Our schools and colleges were falling behind urban schools in attracting the best educators and developing the most relevant academic programs.
  • Our public safety officials were concerned that the lack of reliable communications networks could put our safety at risk.

What they did: 

Three years after that first meeting, OpenCape was awarded grants from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, private construction/operating partners, and Barnstable County totaling $40 million.

Those funds have resulted in the design and construction of a 350 mile network of fiber optic network operating with the latest technologies and highest speeds available. Additionally, the regional collocation data center provides a location for municipal and commercial entities to host equipment or secure cloud services in a secure, reliable location on the Cape. It’s up. It works. It’s really fast, and we’re excited!

So today, instead of the duopoly of for-profit corporations that previously was the only game around for broadband in their region, OpenCape’s new middle-mile backbone is in place. It breaks the good old duopoly. It promotes competition. And it drives down costs.

The OpenCape network is an open access network, meaning other service providers can utilize the network to launch other services in the area, including residential or voice services.  The capacity of the network and data center is a unique opportunity for other service providers to offer additional services to local governments, business, and residents of Southeastern Massachusetts. These services will enable local governments, businesses, and schools to compete and be fast. Wicked fast.

Completed in late 2012, the project proved to be well-worth the wait. Three large entities almost immediately became customers on the network: the Joint Base, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and Hydroid, Inc, a private company.

Now the senior consultant for OpenCape, Dan Gallagher describes the project in depth in this episode of eSTEAMers by Cape Cod Community Media Center.


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