The Cape Cod region deals with a common water quality issue in both drinking and sea water. That's why OpenCape and its partners are thinking about creating a common regional geographic information system (GIS) database that every town could use.

Some towns could use the database, but operate their own GIS within their town. Smaller towns that can't afford to have a GIS shop and run a GIS server base could grab a seat on a regional server base.

The Public Safety Benefits

For emergency management, OpenCape is looking at a regional 911 dispatch system. It's also considering mobile public safety broadband. Recently, President Barack Obama signed a bill to establish a 700 megahertz mobile public safety system across the nation.

But that system needs to have infrastructure developed below the national level to carry it. OpenCape is designing and building its fiber network so that it's ready as soon as the government issues funds and starts building the national system.

In addition to these two pieces, the project includes building a microwave backup system for the fiber network.

"We suffer from violent storms here from the ocean and hurricanes and everything else, so we need to ensure that the public safety communications work," Gallagher said.

The microwave system is integral to the fiber, but could still operate independently if the fiber was knocked out. OpenCape frequently meets with the chiefs of police and fire departments in the region so they can work together and address their needs.

The Collaboration

Throughout this multiyear project, OpenCape has worked with local companies and councils to keep this project moving.

The real challenges of the project involve contracts, permitting, licensing and other things that are outside OpenCape's control. The easy part is installing the fiber, Gallagher said.

One of the ways OpenCape has dealt with these obstacles is by creating relationships with organizations that it needs to get underlying rights from.

The NSTAR power company, which has a $10 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to develop smart grid on Cape Cod, and OpenCape came to an agreement. NSTAR is helping OpenCape get licenses for poles, and OpenCape is helping NSTAR create its smart grid system by using fiber to connect to the company's power switching.

Each week, partners including the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, Cape Cod Commission, Cape Cod Economic Development Council, Cape Cod Technology Council and OpenCape meet to figure out how to take advantage of the infrastructure. And that's an important element of this project, Gallagher said.

"It's really important that people get that it's not just about building the network," Gallagher said. "You can build fiber anywhere but if there aren't people engaged and involved in trying to use it, it's not going to have the effect."

Tanya Roscorla  |  Managing Editor, CDE

Tanya Roscorla covers ed tech behind the scenes and on the legislative agenda. Likes: Culinary experiments, travel adventures, beautiful landscapes.