Increased broadband cost does not invalidate investment

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Although the cost to deploy community owned broadband infrastructure has somewhat increased, the project nevertheless remains a wise investment.

Rather than throwing ourselves at the mercy of one major corporation that would establish a monopoly on the local market and siphon profits out of the community, telecommunications companies would instead be competing for access to the municipality’s broadband network in order to connect residents and businesses with quality Internet service. Meanwhile, the town’s coffers would welcome a direly needed additional revenue stream.

In the knowledge economy of the Information Age, the demand for increased bandwidth and higher Internet speeds is not about to decline. Research analyzing market trends over the past few decades clearly illustrates the opposite: demand for reliable, high-speed access to ever-growing amounts of data doubles every few years.

If ever a person was looking for a sure bet, this is it. We are not talking about rolling the dice on a risky random fad that people could potentially forget about or find no use for overnight.

And every day we remain imbedded in the digital dark age only puts us further behind.

“If you want to entice businesses to come here, they need to be able to download a 500-page document in a matter of seconds, not three weeks,” said deputy mayor Chris Vardas during council’s Sept. 5 workshop, when administration presented an update on the broadband feasibility study. See pages 2 and 18 for that coverage.

The councillor is absolutely correct. Although three weeks might be a bit exaggerated, waiting hours or even a day or more to download information that should be accessible in seconds or minutes by modern standards is unappealing, to put it mildly. Time wasted twiddling thumbs while waiting for files to transfer or for dropped signals to reconnect represents a significant loss of potential productivity and profit.

Businesses and developers no doubt want traditional infrastructure such as streets to service their enterprises, but they also recognize the need to be able to compete in the modern economy, and that includes high-speed Internet.

Roads and pipes are unquestionably a priority in infrastructure upkeep and upgrades, but they don’t create direct profits, whereas broadband would in a matter of years be generating revenue.

The opportunity to create profit-generating infrastructure should not be casually dismissed. That money could, depending on the council of the time, go to fund future capital projects including sewers and sidewalks. Or even to replenish reserves to build up the rainy day purse, which is equally as important to ensure future sustainability.

Depending on the decision council will make on Sept. 25, Sundre could potentially be one step closer to creating a new model framework for other municipalities to follow for deploying broadband in a time when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has deemed it a basic service.

Anyone interested in expressing support ó or reluctance ó to pursue the broadband feasibility study is welcome to attend that meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at the town office.

Just don’t wait until after council carries a motion ó one way or the other ó and then complain about not having had the opportunity to offer two cents.

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Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel is the editor of the Sundre Round Up and a longtime columnist for other publications of Mountain View Publishing.