• Consultants to examine Internet service throughout town

    An Internet consulting firm from Maine is launching a campaign in Jamestown to determine whether homeowners and businesses have the adequate broadband service needed for the 21st century.

    Town Administrator Ed Mello updated the town council Monday about the campaign by Mission Broadband Inc. after the councilors approved the grant-funded project at their Jan. 2 meeting. The grant is being used in collaboration with Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce after the nonprofit organization studied the broadband needs of other cities and towns in the county.

    “They offered the opportunity for that grant to cover that same study for Jamestown,” Mello said.

    The goal, according to Mello, is for Mission Broadband to collect data on Internet speeds and pricing models. A similar, informal study was conducted by Rhode Island Commerce during the winter of 2022-23. While that study relied on people voluntarily submitting their info online, Mission Broadband is expected to visit homes and businesses to test their upload and download speeds.

    According to Mission Broadband, access to adequate and affordable high-speed Internet is “no longer a luxury. It is a vital utility for economic development, education, and health care.” Therefore, because millions of Americans do not have this vital utility, its mission is “to bring equitable broadband access to every citizen by helping communities navigate the process of expanding and enhancing broadband connectivity.”

    Mello said the firm also will conduct market research to see if there are vendors that might be able to compete with Cox in Jamestown.

    “They’re going to do analysis based upon a certain population to try to quantify what those speeds may look like,” Mello said. “Same thing for the commercial district to see what might be available here.”

    John Dougherty, vice president of Mission Broadband, visited Newport to meet with a group of stakeholders, including Mello and Erin Donovan Boyle, chief executive of Greater Newport group.

    “The current work is really an outreach program,” Dougherty said. “We’re trying to understand the status of broadband.”

    Dougherty said he is familiar with Rhode Island after they conducted mapping and speed testing of Internet speeds for Newport in 2021-22. The consulting firm also has been working on New Shoreham to bring broadband to the island, which only is accessible by boat and plane.

    Dougherty hopes working in Jamestown will allow the residents to understand the options they have when it comes to Internet service. He also talked about the benefits that come with broadband.

    “Whether that’s healthcare, education or working at home,” he said.

    He mentioned that a large percentage of Newport County is currently working from home in some capacity, making the need for broadband even more important.

    Mello said the research will help provide what options are available, including whether federal or state money would be available. Dougherty said he plans to have more outreach meetings with the Newport chamber as the campaign moves forward.

    “They’ll be some questions, some meetings, potentially some speed test to go on,” he said. “There needs to be potentially a two-fold understanding, then education, then action.”

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