Campbell River is well on its way to becoming the first community on Vancouver Island to establish an open access municipal broadband network.
At its Monday meeting, council approved spending $155,384 for the installation of micro-duct conduit to service strategic locations in the downtown core with broadband fibre.
Construction of the project is expected to be complete by the end of May and, once up and running, will provide affordable access to high-speed Internet for all downtown businesses.
The initiative is thought to be a game-changer for Campbell River.
“Importantly, for businesses looking for great places to live and great places to do business, we want them to choose Campbell River and you have that opportunity to start today,” Ron Bowles, the city’s corporate manager, told council last September when it approved going ahead with the project.
The system will allow businesses and non-profits located near the network to apply for access to high-speed Internet at a more affordable rate. The network is in response to the increasing demand for high-speed access as traditional industries like forestry and mining have to transfer large amounts of data like 3D renderings, detailed maps and other geographic information.
City Manager Deborah Sargent said a communications strategy is “well underway” in an effort to get the word out to potential investors.
“We’ve had staff, both IT staff and our new economic development officer (Rose Klukas) attend the British Columbia Trade Conference on this area and met with 20 different potential contracts,” Sargent said. “So the Campbell River advantage, which is our branding for this Municipal Broadband Network, is out there already.
“On a daily basis, I can advise council, that our economic development officer is getting leads on individuals ready to invest in this area,” Sargent added.
The Municipal Broadband Network project has a budget of $373,795, funded through a $50,000 grant from ICET as well as $323,795 of city money from council’s Community Works Fund Reserve.
There is also $25,000 set aside for marketing to promote the initiative to outside interests. Those funds will come out of the city’s Gaming Reserve.
The Municipal Broadband Network will allow multiple Internet service providers to use municipally-owned infrastructure to provide services to businesses, therefore eliminating substantial build costs that are typically passed on to the consumer.