The city’s latest infrastructure project could make Campbell River the newest branch in Canada’s growing technology sector, according to a city official.
Rose Klukas, economic development officer for the City of Campbell River, was at the launch of its municipal broadband network, CRadvantage, earlier this month, where she explained how the project could benefit current and future businesses in Campbell River’s downtown core.
“The biggest benefit is the cost of the service, which is why the city decided to invest in the infrastructure — to bring down the cost of high-speed, enterprise-level internet access,” she said. “The city also recognizes that communities outside of large urban centres need to level the playing field (in regards to) business development. This was one initiative that can support that levelling.”
CRadvantage comprises a network of fibre optic cables throughout the downtown core, allowing businesses – and potentially residents – to access online download and upload speeds of up to one gigabit per second, comparable to internet access speeds available in downtown Vancouver and other tech industry hubs.
While the actual infrastructure is maintained by the city, access is sold by a separate internet service provider (ISP). The city is currently seeking further ISP partners in order to foster competition and “avoid monopolistic pricing.”
Several businesses in the area have already taken advantage of the new fibre optic infrastructure, including the Seymour Pacific building and the casino.
While similar initiatives have become increasingly popular across Canada in the past decade, CRadvantage represents the first municipal broadband network to take root on Vancouver Island.
With the network now live, Klukas said the city will focus on connecting with companies operating in IT and other fields who are seeking to set up branch offices outside of increasingly cost-prohibitive urban centres, such as the Lower Mainland.
In addition to lower property costs, city representatives are also hoping that businesses will be enticed by Campbell River’s recreational opportunities as well as the abundance of land for manufacturing operations.
Much of the project’s $25,000 marketing budget, which came out of the city’s Gaming Reserve, will be put towards funding face-to-face meetings with prospective businesses, including the recent BC Tech Summit in Vancouver, which was attended by a delegation of IT and other city staff.
“Our prior research indicated that there were businesses interested in (coming to) Campbell River, but access to affordable, enterprise-level internet access was a barrier,” Klukas said.
“From an economic development perspective, we know that for communities outside of large urban centres that’s just an additional cost of doing business. The city wanted to mitigate that through investing in the infrastructure.”
Discussions for an expansion of the coverage area are currently in “early stages,” according to Klukas, while possible further expansions will depend on the level of interest.
City council first made the project a major priority last year, following the approval of a $50,000 grant by the Island Coastal Economic Trust.
The remaining $323,795 budget was funded through council’s Community Works Fund Reserve.