Anyone who questions the benefit of broadband Internet and perhaps does not see a personal gain might consider the installation of such infrastructure as leaving a crucial legacy for Sundre’s future growth.
To be clear beyond question, the return on this capital investment ó should the community support such an approach ó would not be immediate.
Conservative projections based on a modest service uptake of roughly 30 per cent residential and 50 per cent commercial indicate a payoff period of some 10-15 years.
But the more Sundre residents and businesses buy in, the more revenue the municipality will generate, and the quicker that debt will be repaid.
After that, it’s money in the bank ó or in this case, the municipality’s reserves.
Unless the community chooses to pass the risk, along with any and all reward, on to a private venture.
But seriously, where would you rather put your hard-earned dollars: back into your own town, or directly into the pockets of wealthy, overpaid CEOs of some giant telecom that gouges Canadian consumers on a daily basis?
Of course there also remains the possibility Sundre residents outright reject broadband Internet in its entirety ó publicly owned or privately operated.
But that, we believe, would be a shortsighted philosophy that sells short and quite frankly hamstrings the municipality’s long-term sustainability.
No community could have hoped to remain remotely relevant or economically viable by opting to stay with Morse code or telegrams because life had always been just fine without dial-up telephones, which are now outdated relics of a past many children today might not even recognize.
Granted, the logistics associated with broadband infrastructure are vastly different and more technically complicated than telephone lines.
Yet the impact of modern communications technology on a town’s economy and long-term prospects is the same. Arguably greater in the case of broadband, which is to dial-up or low-speed Internet what a supersonic jet is to the first flimsy powered plane flown by the Wright brothers near Kitty Hawk.
In other words, hardly a comparison at all!
Certainly there will be an initial cost burden if the community decides to invest. Technology rarely comes cheap.
But unlike other infrastructure such as underground pipes, roads and sidewalks, community-owned broadband would actually generate revenue.
An argument can be made that immaculate roads help to create revenue in the sense property values increase, but that’s somewhat of a stretch when compared with a service that would put money directly into the municipality’s coffers ó not unlike the Town of Sundre-owned natural gas system.
In a nutshell, the community cannot grow if it does not modernize. And stagnation is not part of the path to prosperity.
Remember, if you doubt what you personally stand to gain from broadband, think about the overall beneficial impact the infrastructure will have on Sundre, which while already a great place to live would become that much more appealing to entrepreneurs and businesses as well as young families that are seeking a new place to call home.
ó Simon Ducatel, Round Up editor