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No urgency for fiber optics in Ocean Pines

(Oct. 5, 2017) Ocean Pines Association Board President Doug Parks said this week a deal to bring fiber optic internet to the community police station is being examined at a minimal cost.
A request for proposals to bring fiber to the entire association, however, likely will take a back seat, at least for the time being.

“We’re looking into hooking up the police station. There’s been some movement both by the county, Mediacom and us with regard to those options,” Parks said. “Right now, we’re doing our due diligence to make sure we’re reviewing a contract with Mediacom for a dedicated circuit that does nothing else than connect the police station emergency services environment to Snow Hill.”

Parks said the association attorney was reviewing the contract.

“We’re talking about a service that’s going to cost us $200 a month,” he said. “And it has absolutely nothing to do with the cable TV contact – it’s not an addendum, it’s not an amendment. Quite frankly, all it is is an offer right now. Nothing’s been signed.”

Last December, officials from FTS Fiber and ThinkBig Networks offered to connect the Ocean Pines Police department to Snow Hill in exchange for an easement to build a community wide fiber network. FTS would have installed the lines while ThinkBig connected homeowners to high-speed internet.

At the time, FTS Senior Advisor Kenneth Lawhorn said connecting Ocean Pines to Snow Hill was “an investment we’re willing to make for public safety,” adding it would be “probably a nonrecurring charge upfront cost to us of about $200,000 and another $30,000 a year over 20 years to maintain the connectivity.”

Matters were complicated because FTS CEO Brett Hill was both the interim general manager and a board member in Ocean Pines. Hill was replaced as general manager on Sept. 11 and resigned from both the board and as head of the company last month.

Ocean Pines officials released a request for information on fiber lines in March, but a request for proposals was never released.

“Nothing’s really changed going forward nor has anything gone forward,” Parks said. “We started to put an RFP together that I wanted to get in front of the board and that’s when everything started to kind of get reprioritized. Because it wasn’t a pressing need at the time, we kind of back-burnered it for a little bit. That’s where it sits right now.”

Parks said he expected new General Manager John Bailey to address the issue, in due time.

“There’s no rush on this one,” he said. “Quite frankly, with the new GM coming in, what a great opportunity to have him come in on the ground floor … [but] there is no real push or necessity to prioritize it and get something done. Limbo is not the right word, but that’s about as close as I can give to you.”

ThinkBig Sales Director Judy Morgan said this week the company has not given up pursuit of a contract in Ocean Pines.

“We’re an internet service provider, so we’re the final-mile folks,” she said. “For Ocean Pines, we would be championing both the ISP and bringing the fiber backbone in.”

She said ThinkBig would hire another company to install the infrastructure. Morgan said ThinkBig would not have a relationship with FTS “in the Ocean Pines, or future developments.”

“ThinkBig Networks has never waivered from our desire to come into Ocean Pines,” she said. “All we have needed, from day one, is a nonexclusive easement from the association so we could put the fiber backbone in. The rest is us.

“There would be virtually no expense to the association to put this backbone in – and it’s nonexclusive, so anyone else that wants to come in and play could certainly do that. We just need to be able to have the approval,” Morgan added. “We will continue to reach out to the Ocean Pines Association and Mr. Parks.”
Parks was less enthusiastic about the prospect of working with ThinkBig.

Asked if he had recently spoken with ThinkBig officials, Parks replied, “no, and I don’t plan on it.”