CapeCodToday, recently ran two interviews relating to OpenCape, the publicly owned network nearing completion in Massachusetts. The interviews follow a belated March press release from Comcast, announcing its new service contract with Cape Cod Community College (CCCC). Like some others familiar with the project, we were surprised to see the college choosing Comcast for connectivity instead of OpenCape.
As we previously noted, CCCC and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute were two OpenCape founding members in 2006. The nonprofit OpenCape received $32 million in a Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (stimulus) award and gathered an additional $8 million in funds from the state, the county, and CapeNet, the company building and operating the network.
Regarding the delay in publicity, the College was not willing to comment on the connection, including statements to Comcast itself, until we had actively used it for a couple of months.
When the contract was negotiated, CCCC needed fiber service and OpenCape was not ready to serve them. Cox stated that the college needs to stay competitive and referred to a Bridgewater University satellite campus that will soon open in the community. Community colleges rely heavily on reliable connectivity as students look for distance learning opportunities.
Cox said Comcast was the only provider with resources in place and offered a three-year contract at five-year pricing. The rate is $95 less per month than OpenCape's pre-completion estimate. Cox emphasized the fact that the college did not have many choices and said:
In the near future, I am hopeful that CapeNet will be fully operational and competitive, reducing our future costs and increasing our capabilities. As we depend increasingly more upon the internet and “the cloud” for services, there will be even more demand by the College community for fast, reliable, competitively-priced broadband.
Friends in the area tell us CapeCodToday occasionally prints biased stories about the OpenCape project, leading us to wonder if the timing of Comcast's press release so close to the launch of CapeNet is to promote the misconception that the project has not been successful.
In a later interview with Alan Davis, CEO of CapeNet, Brooks asked rather slanted questions but Davis took the opportunity to correct misinformation. For example:
Cape Cod Today: The OpenCape network cost $40 million in Federal and State funds. Is this just another spectacular waste of tax dollars, as some of our readers have suggested?
Mr. Davis: The government can find lots of creative ways to waste tax dollars, but often they get it right. Thanks to federal and state funding, we’re creating a superior fiber optic infrastructure that will compete with Verizon and Comcast and produce more broadband choices for the region. When buyers have more choices, buyers win.
Right now, Comcast and Verizon have a virtual stranglehold on our region. Did you know they even have a federally-blessed agreement to market each other’s services?
Cape Cod Today: Comcast made a rather comprehensive Service Level Agreement with CCCC. What is CapeNet’s SLA and how does it compare to Comcast’s?
Mr. Davis: Actually Comcast’s SLA is very standard. SLAs are always long and complex since they’re written by lawyers who get paid by the word.
The point of an SLA is to guarantee performance and compensate a customer for loss of service. Our SLA reflects our confidence in the new network and goes beyond the expected.
We’ll stack and aggregate reimbursements for outages and sub-par performance, up to 100% of a customer’s bill. Buyers would love to see Comcast match that and we hope they do.
Like Cox, Davis expresses optimism that CCCC will be ready to sign on with OpenCape and CapeNet in three years. Also from the interview:
Here’s the important thing and you heard it loud and clear: the college stated they would never have gotten those prices from Comcast in previous years. That’s the result of meaningful competition. With more choices and more leverage, the buyer wins. I’m confident you’ll hear more from the college and CapeNet.
In a May 2nd OpEd published in CapeCodToday, Davis provided more detail about how competition from CapeNet improves broadband for everyone:
The bottom line is that when we have more choices for broadband services, we have more leverage against huge companies that have gone unchallenged. We’ll have more power to demand better service and better prices. This changes everything.
Certainly CCCC must supply students and staff with the connectivity they need to learn, teach, and conduct research. OpenCape and CapeNet will soon be in a position to offer the services CCCC needs at a reasonable price. Comcast usually enjoys an environment with little or no competition and takes advantage of their position whenever possible.
This interview offers some insight for those who may grant interviews to reporters that have an agenda. Slanted media institutions are growing even as more neutral journalistic enterprises are laying off reporters. Communities are smart to be prepared for either ignoring inquiries from obviously-biased sources or practicing responses to misleading charges, some outrageously so.