Consults commence on community broadband network

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Sundre is now entering the next phase of its ambitious pursuit of fibre optics, which will involve a census-level survey of residents and business owners located within the town’s limits. We have narrowed the operational model to two options and the public must help council decide which to pursue.

The first option involves wholesaling access to Internet service providers (ISP) on a town-owned broadband network. This model shows much potential to generate revenues that could support community growth. And although it would require the municipality to take on debt to support the $2.75-million deployment, it would not require any taxes from the public since costs would be covered through access fees paid by private Internet service providers to the Town of Sundre.

The second option involves inviting a private company to install the fibre optic network in Sundre, with zero contribution from the municipality. This would eliminate all risk, but it would also eliminate any possibility to earn profits for the town in the future. The municipality would also not maintain any strategic control over the network.

Before moving forward, officials need to determine two things: the market demand for improved broadband Internet, and which option the public would like to see pursued. Banister Research, a reputable and experienced third party will conduct the market research in order to ensure that the survey is both unbiased and comprehensive. Although the financial projections show that the project could be potentially very lucrative for taxpayers, the risk of failure exists if residents do not adopt the service and that could affect our future ability to borrow. That’s why the phase we are entering now is the most important.

We will ask residents as well as business owners within Sundre’s corporate limits the following: do you want to become a customer of one of the ISPs that provides broadband service over a town-owned network? And secondly, are you willing to risk the projected $2.75 million, spent over five years via debt borrowing (and repaid over 20 years), to potentially earn an operational profit for the municipality in the future? Note that there would be no taxes required in this situation. With the public option, all of the costs would be covered by the carrying fees paid by ISPs. To make money, we would require only 33 per cent of all premises in town to become customers of a partner ISP. And all of the money paid to the municipality would stay local.

Or would you prefer to pursue a privatized option? The privatized option would involve a company such as Axia Connect, which would deploy the fibre optics at a time of their choosing at no cost to the municipality. This would eliminate any risk for the town, but would also lose the municipality’s strategic control over the network and would deny any profits to the town in perpetuity. All capital paid to the company would leave the region.

The public’s input will assist council in deciding which is the best option for the community to pursue.

Keep an eye out because Banister Research will first conduct public education sessions in early May before undertaking an extensive survey involving web, telephone and ultimately door to door. We require as many households and businesses as possible to answer our survey to allow council to confidently make the decision to move forward.

For any information on the public wholesale broadband network project, please call the department of economic development at 403-638-3551.

Pull quote

“Although the financial projections show that the project could be potentially very lucrative for taxpayers, the risk of failure exists if residents do not adopt the service and that could affect our future ability to borrow. That’s why the phase we are entering now is the most important.”ó Jonathan Allan, economic development officer

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