Telecommunications group formed
The Block Island Residents Association has established a Telecommunications Task Force (TTF) that is designed to help provide solutions to the island’s sporadic internet and wireless service.
“If we don’t start looking into this now we’re going to get further and further behind,” said task force Chairman Bill McKernan. “It’s going to be a problem.” McKernan spoke about the formation of the task force at the Island Free Library Board of Trustees meeting.
The TTF will look at all aspects of the island’s telecommunications service.
“With the rapid growth of smartphones, tablets and overall computer use it is a fact that demand for bandwidth will continue to grow rapidly,” the TTF mission statement reads. “Clearly Block Island is not ready to serve this growth and, as a result, our economy, medical and educational needs will suffer if not fixed.”
The members of the task force are McKernan, Jim Hinthorn and Mike Ballard.
One of the reasons McKernan was talking about the task force at the Library Trustees meeting was because the library itself becomes a virtual office for visiting CEOs and salespeople and other business professionals who are looking for an internet connection while they are on vacation. The library has three T-1 lines and service is reasonably reliable during the summer and in bad weather — which it often is not at the homes they are renting.
“On a rainy day everyone is in every corner of the library on an iPad,” said Library Director Kristin Baumann.
Baumann said there are only two libraries in Rhode Island not hooked up to an internet cable: on Block Island and in Bristol. “There is definitely a disadvantage to that,” she said, because as reliable as the service at the library is, it can still be knocked out by bad weather.
The TTF mission statement touches on a few areas where slow or intermittent internet service is affecting the island:
“Economically it is felt that summer rentals could be impacted if we continue to offer poor or no service to many rentals.
“Medically, with the impact of electronic medical records, growing telemedicine and medical imaging needs, we could also suffer.
“Educationally, right now our school and library do not have enough service to meet present needs.”
“What the telecommunications task force will look at is broader than just the internet. It’s the whole spectrum — wifi, smartphones, tablets,” said BIRA Chairman Bill Penn. “Telecommunications is a priority.”
As the mission statement pointed out, internet service is provided to the island by satellite service, DSL service over phone lines and by the cell tower. The mission notes that a “fiber link in the Deepwater cable would be a fourth possible source of service.”
McKernan said that he plans to canvass members of town government, such as Town Manager Nancy Dodge, “and find out what’s happening with the town” in terms of its telecommunications needs and to also talk to such vendors as Verizon to “see what their thoughts are.”
McKernan will also reach out to members of the Rhode Island congressional delegation and state representatives to see what federal or state programs are available to bring internet service to smaller, more rural communities such as Block Island.