Bangor company helps bring Rhode Island’s first municipally-owned broadband network to life

Mission Broadband has made history, helping to launch Rhode Island’s first municipally-owned broadband network in the town of New Shoreham on Block Island. The network, called BroadbandBI, will bring modern Internet speeds to the town’s businesses and 1,800 households.

Mission Broadband served as project manager and advisor on BroadbandBI, working with the town leaders to identify the project scope, solicit proposals from vendors to build infrastructure and manage the implementation.

“Our relationship with Mission Broadband has been foundational. Their work was instrumental in helping us move through this process.” said New Shoreham Finance Director Amy Lewis Land.

Up until now, residents of Block Island only had access to unreliable dial-up Internet service, costly satellite service, or mobile hotspots. This often made it impossible for businesses to perform basic functions like processing credit card sales.

After the Block Island Wind Farm was built in 2016, New Shoreham town leaders commissioned the development of a fiber optic connection to the island, created on the underwater cables that bring power to the wind turbines. Mission Broadband started working with New Shoreham to use that connection to get broadband service to its Community Anchor Institutions, starting with the medical center and then to the library, public safety complex, municipal offices, and the town’s K-12 school, which serves 130 students from kindergarten to grade 12.

In 2021, New Shoreham voters authorized an $8 million bond issue to pay for the installation and administration of a broadband network, which will include 53 miles of fiber cable and 1,800 property connections, with data speeds of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), and eventually support speeds as fast as 10 Gbps. Installation began in April 2023 and will continue through the fall.

Following the success of connecting New Shoreham’s anchor institutions, town leaders tapped Mission Broadband to identify a vendor that could build a locally controlled network that would be affordable, reliable, and scalable, and serve as project manager for the initiative.

Mission worked with the town’s broadband committee to design the scope of work for the project, develop a Request for Proposals, and help select a provider. Ultimately the town chose Sertex Broadband Solutions, of Plainfield, Connecticut, to build and manage the network.

The impact of the new level of Internet accessibility has been profound, Lewis Land said.

“Not having reliable, fast residential and business service was a constraint on what people could do on the island and made it less viable as a year-round community” she said. With the new network, “all of a sudden, we are not lagging behind. It has made the fabric of the community much stronger.”

Mission Broadband President and founder Jim Rogers said that the Block Island project is an example of the important work that still needs to be done in rural unserved areas to bridge the digital divide.

“We were so honored to be a part of this historic effort and help New Shoreham lay the foundation for a sustainable future. This network helps ensure that year-round and seasonal life on Block Island can continue, just as it has for generations but with the benefit of modern Broadband access,” Rogers said.

Mission Broadband is an independent consulting firm based in Bangor, Maine, working to bring equitable broadband access to all by helping communities access funding to build networks through public-private partnerships. The company has worked with over 530 communities nationwide to build broadband networks, which has brought modern internet access to an estimated one-million individuals.