Frequently Asked Questions

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What is OpenCape Corporation?

OpenCape Corporation is a non-profit 501(c) (3) entity that was formed to represent and advocate for the region's broadband needs. 

OpenCape owns the physical assets of the OpenCape Network and the Regional Data Center in Barnstable County. Each year, OpenCape receives a portion of the revenues of its licensed private network operator, CapeNet. OpenCape Corporation will use its share of revenues to work with communities to advise and advocate for new services and support further network expansion for the benefit of the region. 

Some of OpenCape's duties are:

  • Maintain all permits, rights of way and licenses for construction of the network
  • Maintain transparency of the project so everyone can understand where the grant money is being spent and why
  • Ensure that the network is open-access and vendor-neutral, to promote competition
  • Maintain ownership, on behalf of the region, of all physical assets (e.g., fiber cable and hardware) that comprise the physical network

All of the individuals at OpenCape are local employees and volunteers. OpenCape is overseen by a board of directors that represents the region geographically and functionally.

Upon receiving the grant funds, OpenCape issued a request for proposals (RFP) and ran a public, competitive bid process to select a company to build and maintain the network and, most importantly, offer new broadband services along the network path. As a result of this RFP, OpenCape chose CapeNet LLC.

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What is CapeNet?

CapeNet LLC is a privately held, Massachusetts-based company that won the competitive bid for the license to build and operate the OpenCape Network and sell services on the network for the next 25 years.

CapeNet is a small team of telecom professionals with broad telecom experience. CapeNet designed, built and maintains the now-completed OpenCape Network.

Most importantly, CapeNet sells Services on the completed network, directly and via resellers. CapeNet also provides open access to legitimate last-mile service providers, including municipalities, which may choose to use the network to provide additional services to end users.

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What is the OpenCape Network?

The OpenCape Network is the entirely new carrier-grade communication network constructed from 100% fiber optic cable, plus high-speed links to the Islands and a separate wireless overlay network for additional redundancy. There is no better, or more advanced, network in the world. Traffic from the fiber network can switch over to the wireless network if needed.  And in the event of a major disaster, wireless networks can often be restored more quickly than wired networks. The wireless network will also be available for future public safety use, e.g., police, fire departments and ambulances.

The entire network now spans 475 miles throughout southeastern MA and Cape Cod, interconnecting to geographically separate, major regional network centers in Providence, RI, Boston, and Brockton, MA. The fiber was installed primarily onto existing utility poles and other rights-of-way, which is the fastest way to get the new fiber cable installed.  In areas with existing underground utilities, the fiber was also installed underground. The wireless network is being erected mainly on water towers.

86 Community Anchor Institutions received branches onto the network.  They are not required to use the network but most have already established service. These include emergency shelters (schools), libraries, five colleges, six academic research facilities, and many town or public safety buildings. The OpenCape Network path also enables many additional institutions to obtain service rapidly from the network, including seven hospitals, two additional higher education institutions, eight additional libraries, ten county, state or federal institutions, five commercial/industrial centers, and potentially more than 270 public safety and educational facilities.

You can see a map of the entire network fiber path here.

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Why is this project happening?

Southeastern MA, Cape Cod and the Islands have been significantly underserved with broadband -- compared to more densely-populated areas of the country -- because of our smaller population.

In the past, huge infrastructure upgrades like this were often funded by for-profit corporations.  But corporations can't justify the expense for sparsely populated areas because there aren't enough buyers of services to pay back the construction investment.

As a result, our technology gap has widened in the past decade and the lack of state-of-the-art services has a greater affect every day. 

Our businesses, schools, libraries, local government, emergency services, hospitals and research institutions have an increasingly difficult time keeping up and competing in the global economy. And our region has a harder time keeping young workers in the area, attracting new businesses and offering visitors the broadband services they expect.

In the last few years, the federal government has stepped up incentives to upgrade broadband infrastructure in underserved areas. (Learn more about the history of our project here and here.)

The building of the OpenCape "middle mile" fiber network is the first essential step in bringing the latest, most reliable, highest-speed voice and data services to our region.

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Are CapeNet and OpenCape owned by the same people?

No, each is a separate entity run by completely different people.

OpenCape Corporation is a locally-based, non-profit organization and CapeNet LLC is a private company.

OpenCape hired CapeNet to design, build and operate the network, and to sell broadband services on the network.

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Does OpenCape sell anything?

Non-profit OpenCape doesn't sell broadband services but does own the data center in Barnstable which houses the network equipment. OpenCape can sell colocation and data storage space in that building. CapeNet and its resellers are your source for broadband services.

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We already have broadband cable and DSL – why aren't these enough?

For many residents and small businesses, these existing services are indeed enough and these choices will not go away.  

However, DSL and cable aren't as fast or as reliable as fiber, and are often inadequate for data-intensive businesses, schools, colleges, libraries, researchers, local government, hospitals, emergency services and others with high-bandwidth needs. These entities will be the first to benefit from the OpenCape Network.

The OpenCape Network provides more broadband choices and promotes more competition, which ultimately benefits everyone in the area.

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Will the new network create jobs?

Yes – and it already has. The network enables businesses and municipalities to save money and be more competitive, both locally and in the global marketplace.

Longer term, the new network is expected to generate tremendous growth in jobs and economic development opportunities throughout the region. It is already helping to lower the cost of local government, freeing up money to be invested by towns in other initiatives.

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What is CapeNet doing now?
  • CapeNet maintains, upgrades and builds onto the network.
  • CapeNet sells services directly and via resellers, to businesses and institutions that are on or near the network route.
  • CapeNet provides open access to other vendors who may want to provide services over the new network.

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Will this new network bring fiber to the home (FTTH)?

Fiber to every home in the region is beyond the scope and funding of this project, but it is one of the many future upgrades that would never be possible without the new OpenCape backbone network.  FTTH would be a totally separate project with separate funding.

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I've been hearing my cell phone reception will improve.

An important byproduct of the new network can be improved cell phone reception that enables better use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. CapeNet can't force wireless carriers to buy backhaul services on the new network but it provides them with a scalable, lower-cost, faster solution to this growing problem. One wireless carrier, which asked not to be named yet, has already bought dark fiber on the OpenCape network and has hired CapeNet to build fiber branches to 59 cell towers, all but eight of which are on Cape Cod. That construction work is in progress now and slated to be completed by spring, 2016.

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Please explain the "lingo!" "Core... Backbone... Middle Mile..."

All of these terms describe the main fiber optic route which was built as part of this project. You may hear these terms used interchangeably, depending on who is talking.

The term, "middle mile" means that the network connects to the nationwide network, but doesn't terminate at every single home and business. (Those are "last mile" projects.)

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Where did the construction money come from?

The OpenCape Network is made possible by a $32-million federal BTOP grant from ARRA funds and a total of $8 million in matching funds from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Barnstable County and CapeNet. 

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Why is it called the "OpenCape Network?"

The entire network has been designed to offer vendor-neutral, "open" access, which means that it is open to any legitimate business that can pay for access, has the technical ability to connect and is not using the network for illegal purposes.

By comparison, a privately-owned network can turn away business for a variety of reasons, including blocking competition.

CapeNet provides this open access as part of its contracted role to manage and operate the OpenCape core network. 

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Are there other projects like this in the United States?

Yes, there are more than 100 projects like ours in progress around the country.  You can learn more about these projects at www.recovery.gov. Each project must adhere to strict, transparent reporting requirements.

Another project benefitting Massachusetts is the Massachusetts Broadband 123 project in western Massachusetts.

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What will change for my business as a result of this new network?

Businesses will have more choices for broadband without losing any of the options available today.

The new network will enable affordable broadband at speeds up to 100 times faster than what's available today, with much better reliability. Not every business needs high-speed broadband, but for many it's essential for competing in the global economy.

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What is the RWAN?

On Cape Cod, the Barnstable County Commission is managing access to a new regional wide area network (RWAN) for shared use by all 15 towns. CapeNet is the County's broadband service provider. The RWAN became operational in August, 2014. Each on-Cape town has one or more connectionsMany towns also buy additional, dedicated broadband service directly from CapeNet.

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What is a public-private partnership?

The term "public-private partnership" means that the public sector (e.g., government or a non-profit) and the private sector (e.g., business) are working together to reach a common goal.

In the case of OpenCape and CapeNet, it means that OpenCape Corporation (a public, non-profit organization operating with government funds on behalf of the region) and CapeNet LLC (a private company) have contracted to work together to solve the issue of a lack of middle mile, high-speed infrastructure in the southeast quadrant of Massachusetts.

The public side (OpenCape) led the way in creating a vision for solving the issue and harnessing funding for the initial capital investment.

The private side (CapeNet) brings industry expertise to build and operate the vendor-neutral network, and encourages additional private capital investment to further expand and enhance marketplace offerings.

The result is that Cape Cod and southeast Massachusetts gets the infrastructure it needs without having to create new taxes or large operational overhead, and private businesses have the opportunity to develop services and profit in a market that would otherwise have been only marginally attractive.

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How will the network sustain itself after the construction grants are used up?

Now that construction is complete the entire project is already self-sustaining, which means no new government subsidies are required to operate and maintain the network.

CapeNet has a renewable 25-year lease to sell services on the network. They maintain the network, develop new services and use part of their profits to extend the reach of the network. 

Each year, non-profit OpenCape receives a portion the revenues earned by CapeNet. OpenCape will use its share of CapeNet revenues to renew the permits which allow the fiber to be installed on utility poles, and help pay for further network expansion.

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