OpenCape Project History

The communities of southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod are working together to transform our outdated telecommunication infrastructure with a major, world-class upgrade to fiber-optic broadband service 100 times faster than previously available.

The genesis of this ambitious, grass-roots makeover was a meeting in 2006 when about 100 local business, government and community leaders came together to explore ways to solve the problems of inadequate bandwidth, limited voice and data services and poor cell phone reception.

Our outdated infrastructure affects everyone in the region:

  • Local economic development efforts are hampered because our communication infrastructure is outdated and inadequate to attract new businesses to southeastern MA and the Cape.
  • Thousands of residents leave the Cape each workday, and many leave the region permanently each year, in search of better job opportunities.
  • Thousands of tourists arrive in the region expecting the same level of service they get elsewhere on their phones, laptops and other mobile devices.
  • Local businesses and research institutions know that the higher cost and limited availability of broadband throttles their ability to attract the best workers, grow their business and compete in the global economy.
  • The higher cost and inefficiency of running local government telecom and data systems is passed to tax payers.
  • Schools and colleges must compete with urban schools to attract the best educators and develop relevant academic programs.
  • Public safety officials have cited times when key communication connections were cut, putting the population at risk.  

In the past, many telecom infrastructure upgrades were funded by for-profit corporations. But telecom carriers and other corporations can’t justify modernizing sparsely-populated areas because there aren’t enough buyers of services to pay back the enormous 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 growing effect every day.

The Cape Cod Technology Council, Cape Cod Community College and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) led the charge to set up an organization with local staff to find a solution and, most important, make the network a reality.

From these early meetings, non-profit OpenCape Corporation was born.

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

In the last few years, state and federal governments have stepped up financial incentives to upgrade broadband infrastructure in underserved areas.

OpenCape successfully raised a total of $40 million in grants from regional, state and federal funds. The 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 LLC.

OpenCape and CapeNet used the funds to construct:

  1. The now-completed OpenCape Network backbone that spans throughout southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod, with high-speed links to both Islands.  The network connects with the world at geographically separate connection centers in Providence, RI, Boston, Cambridge and Brockton, MA
  2. A wireless overlay network for first responders and an additional layer of redundancy
  3. A regional data center in Barnstable Village, which houses network equipment and is a resource for customers and future service providers

These three elements combine to provide a robust, high capacity telecommunication infrastructure that will meet the region's needs for decades to come without any major upgrades. CapeNet now provides broadband services on the network, directly and via resellers. The network is also open to all legitimate service providers who may wish to use the network to offer last-mile services.

Non-profit OpenCape owns, on behalf of the region, all of the physical assets that comprise the network, and receives a portion of the profits CapeNet and other licensees receive from selling services on the network. OpenCape will use their share of the profits to benefit the region.

CapeNet was selected by OpenCape in a competitive process, and has a 25-yr renewable license to operate the network and sell broadband services. 

Construction of the core OpenCape Network was completed in June, 2013. At that time the network spanned about 350 miles. The network now spans 475 fiber miles and is still growing.