Broadband Fiber Network Project for an Island

Bridging the Digital Divide: A Collaborative Effort in New Shoreham, Rhode Island


New Shoreham, RI, the sole community on Block Island, grappled with a critical issue – severely limited and unreliable internet access. This deficiency significantly hampered residents, businesses, and essential public services such as education, healthcare, and public safety. 

The island’s geographic isolation compounded the problem. Limited competition among internet service providers (ISPs) and poor cellular service further restricted the ability of residents and businesses to connect effectively. 

Recognizing the Need for Improved Connectivity:

Acknowledging the critical need for enhanced connectivity, the Town of New Shoreham embarked on a collaborative initiative. Partnering with Mission Broadband, the goal was to establish a robust internet infrastructure – a high-speed fiber optic backbone and a comprehensive Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) network encompassing the entire island. This pioneering effort culminated in BroadbandBI, Rhode Island’s first municipally owned Fiber-to-the-Home network. 

Addressing Key Challenges:

The project necessitated tackling several crucial hurdles: 

  • Establish a High-Capacity Connection: A robust link between the island and the mainland was paramount to the success of any initiative to increase broadband speeds on the island. The link had to have the capacity to grow as demand increased.  
  • Securing Funding: Financial backing was essential to propel the project forward. Construction costs in offshore locations are higher and more variable than on the mainland.  
  • Community Engagement: for the project to be successful, the island community had to be engaged and educated on the need and benefit of a fiber optic network.


Implementing a Multi-Phased Solution:

Mission Broadband, in close collaboration with the Town of New Shoreham, meticulously charted a course through a multi-phased project: 

Phase 1: Feasibility and Funding (January 2018 – February 2018): 

  • Network Design Analysis: Mission Broadband evaluated potential network design options to leverage E-Rate and Healthcare Connect Fund subsidies for constructing a private fiber network connecting key facilities. 
  • Funding Plan Development: Two network designs along with corresponding funding request plans were developed. 
  • Exploring Funding Opportunities: Findings were presented to the FCC and USAC to explore subsidy eligibility and application procedures. 


Phase 2: RFP Development and Vendor Selection (February 2018 – June 2019): 

  • RFP Issuance: Mission Broadband drafted and issued RFPs seeking proposals for implementing the private fiber network and utilizing Healthcare Connect Funds. 
  • Vendor Evaluation: Vendor responses were reviewed and assessed based on engineering expertise, the merits of the designs, and technical qualifications. 
  • Vendor Selection: The vendor demonstrating the most exceptional capabilities was recommended. 


Phase 3: Island-Wide FTTP Network Buildout (June 2019 – Present): 

  • Community Engagement: A comprehensive survey was conducted to gather valuable feedback from the community and stakeholders. 
  • Transparency and Public Forums: Public forums were actively facilitated to ensure the community remained informed and engaged throughout the process. 
  • Infrastructure Mapping: A detailed inventory of infrastructure and poles, including location data, attachments, and underground facilities, was compiled. 
  • Network Design and RFP Development: A comprehensive RFP was developed, soliciting proposals for the design, construction, and ongoing operation of the island wide FTTP network. 
  • Scalable Solution: The design included a scalable transport solution using undersea fiber optic cable to the mainland and establishing connectivity with internet service providers (ISPs) at a co-location facility in Providence, RI.  
  • Vendor Selection: All RFP submissions were evaluated based on technical merit, design parameters, the technology proposed, cost, and timelines. Vendors were selected through the RFP process, and the network implementation commenced in 2020. Mission Broadband managed all aspects of the network buildout, encompassing engineering, construction, marketing, ISP relations, and post-construction deliverables. Two vendors were selected: an ISP to deliver internet service and a Network Operator that manages all installations, service calls and network maintenance. Currently on behalf of the town, Mission Broadband is serving in the role of Operations Oversight where processes and policies are evaluated, and recommendations are made to the Town for improved operations and service delivery. 


Transformative Project Outcomes:

  • Enhanced Connectivity: A high-capacity fiber optic connection now bridges the gap between New Shoreham and the mainland, providing a solid foundation for state-of-the-art, reliable, high-speed internet access. The equipment terminating the fiber boasts significant capacity for future growth, effectively “future-proofing” the island’s upstream connection. 
  • Empowered CAIs: Schools, libraries, healthcare facilities, town halls, and public safety institutions now benefit from a dedicated fiber network, enabling improved communication, data exchange, and access to critical online resources. 
  • Island-Wide Coverage: The project is extending FTTP access to all 1,800 structures on the island, eliminating the digital divide for residents and businesses. 

© 2024 by Mission Broadband, Inc.