The pages of this newspaper are, as I write this, being assembled from various locations, including an Eastham basement, various Provincetown and Truro bedrooms, and our dining room table in Wellfleet. This is the miracle of the internet. Files are passed back and forth, updated, and carefully moved along a virtual pipeline to the designers for layout, late-night proofreading, corrections, and, finally, the printing press.
Sometimes we imagine others, the newly graduated from Cape Tech, or the recently arrived from the Big City, setting up parallel online work lives out here alongside us.
But that’s still a pipe dream, because things so often go inexplicably dark, and because our weekly ritual involves waiting for eternally long half-hours while our computers strain to swallow a photograph or display a proof. Why? Because many of us do not have high-speed internet connections.
Hearing the trials and tribulations of others, we’ve reported on every step forward on the broadband front. Our sense is that, with each advance, there’s a chance that more businesses like ours will spring up, that the year-round economy will become more sustainable here.
In our first issue, in September 2019, we asked, “Whatever happened to OpenCape?,” the would-be backbone of our high-tech coming of age, launched in 2006. We found a “plan” that calls for towns, businesses, and individuals to pay $70,000 per mile to lay down the all-important “last-mile” strands of the network that would actually connect people.
A year later, we reported that OpenCape director Steven Johnston was “ready to rock and roll” with $1.7 million to expand broadband in Provincetown, and with plans for “amazing stuff” in the other three Outer Cape towns. The hitch was that the governor was stalling on the funds.
In November, we learned that Truro, Wellfleet, and Eastham had joined two Lower Cape towns to negotiate a lower “density factor” with Comcast, the de facto cable monopoly, to bring broadband to roads with 15 houses per mile instead of 25. But no one in town government, or even at Comcast itself, seemed to know what that meant as far as new connections. We only glancingly noted that funds from the state’s Broadband Institute have flowed mainly to the Berkshires.
This week, we found it downright exciting to learn that broadband is coming to Wellfleet’s Pamet Point Road. But it took an individual’s full-time 10-year crusade to make things happen in her immediate neighborhood.
The Outer Cape’s dis-connectivity keeps people from participating in civic life. It makes online learning a non-event. We see there’s no flurry of high-tech startups happening here. The truth is, we haven’t gotten to the bottom of this. I’m hereby recommitting us to do so. If you can help, we hope you’ll let us know.