Fast, reliable, and affordable broadband access is needed to support local economic development, tourism, public safety and services, and residential life on Aquidneck Island. Today, broadband service options are limited for most homes and businesses. Fiber optic service is generally unavailable, faster service is cost-prohibitive for residents and small businesses, and competition is lacking relative to other parts of Rhode Island. Prudence Island in the Town of Portsmouth lacks broadband access completely. Faster, cheaper and more accessible commercial and residential broadband service is needed to position Aquidneck Island for a prosperous and dynamic future.
Since 2015, AIPC has been working to increase the island’s public access to faster broadband. Throughout the U.S., communities have demonstrated that locally-based networks with fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) can achieve this goal, providing improved service at lower cost while introducing much-needed competition into the broadband marketplace. A community-based broadband network will provide Aquidneck Island with competitive advantage for business, tourism, government and residential needs, while pioneering a model for use and adoption throughout Rhode Island and elsewhere in the U.S.
- Develop an alternative to current broadband networks that supports business, residential and community needs on Aquidneck Island, now and in the future.
- Establish the digital infrastructure necessary for business attraction, retention and growth, including home-based businesses
- Maintain an attractive environment for tourism
- Support first-class STEM education
- Provide for municipal and public-safety needs
- Foster a high quality of life in all three communities.
PROGRESS & IMPLEMENTATION
AIPC will assist Portsmouth, Middletown and Newport by:
- Developing a business plan, as outlined below, to determine the optimal network and business architecture for community broadband, and to provide the municipalities with information and tools necessary to move forward;
- Developing an inter-local agreement among the three municipalities, based on the results of the business plan; assisting in securing Council approval in all municipalities; assisting in developing state legislation as needed; and
- With municipal participation, developing a public-private partnership (P3) to build and operate the network.
Business Plan: We will develop a business plan to identify the most realistic and cost-effective approach to providing high-quality, affordable broadband service throughout Aquidneck Island, and to outline tangible, efficient steps toward implementation. The plan will expand on the 2015 Tilson and the 2021 Connect Greater Newport broadband analysis for Aquidneck Island, and will produce the following deliverables:
Demand Model: Research potential network users including business, healthcare, non- profit and residential sectors; develop demand model for improved service, take rates, potential commercial and residential subscribers, cost sensitivity, etc.
Economic Benefit/CBA: Estimate economic benefits to Aquidneck Island; develop cost/benefit assessment.
Inventory Available Assets: Support RI Commerce’s mapping efforts to identify existing broadband infrastructure assets that may be utilized in network development (OSHEAN, municipal fiber, etc.) or that may be acquired (pole rights, municipal gain, etc.).
Network Model: Develop conceptual design of network, operating model, speed and coverage goals, open vs. closed access, maintenance considerations, etc. Include wireless networks as interim or permanent features; consider opportunities for pole-top public wireless and universal wireless in downtown and business districts.
Public/Private Partnership: Define P3 model based on Aquidneck Island needs, assets, cost considerations, and research into successful community broadband networks nationwide. Develop preliminary agreements with OSHEAN and other potential public, non-profit and private-sector partners and providers.
Municipal Requirements: Work with communities to determine present and future unmet requirements for public safety and public services.
Digital Equity: Address “digital divide” and lack of access in low-income areas such as Newport’s North End.
Business model and pro-forma: Develop construction and operational cost estimates, income projections, cost schedule and pro forma to build-out.
Financing Plan: Identify realistic public and private sources of funding for network development and capitalization.
Implementation Plan: Implementation plan and schedule, likely beginning with high-end business customers and/or pilot projects, with timeline for providing service to all homes and businesses on the Island.
Inter-Local Agreement: Develop an inter-local agreement (ILA) among Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth to establish a community broadband network.
RFQ: Develop a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to assemble a P3 and build the Island Gig network. Use RFQ to establish partnership and begin developing the network.
Legislative Needs: Identify state and municipal legislation that may be necessary or desirable for network development and operation.
Outreach: Coordinate with RI Commerce to provide ongoing outreach to municipal Councils and other stakeholders, via the Web, social media and public meetings, throughout the process of plan development.
Last reviewed and edited: April 22, 2023.