City looks to implement downtown broadband

The city is seeking a $50,000 grant to complete infrastructure upgrades to accommodate a downtown municipal broadband network

The city is seeking a $50,000 grant to complete infrastructure upgrades to accommodate a downtown municipal broadband network.

The system would allow local businesses and non-profits located near the network to apply for access to high speed Internet at a more affordable rate.

Warren Kalyn, the city’s manager of information technology, said it’s a system that large urban centres already have easy access to.

“Municipal broadband networks make cities more attractive to businesses, especially high-tech and research companies, which are dependent on communication,” Kalyn said. “These municipal owned networks enable small and home-based businesses to participate in international and regional commerce, provide hosting opportunities for services such as data centres, and allow companies to recruit new employees who can telecommute without physically relocating.”

But Kalyn said the key advantage to municipally owned broadband networks is “the significant cost reduction associated with Internet access available through service providers due to the substantial decrease in initial build costs.”

The city is working on a conceptual business case for such a network, at a cost of $20,000. That plan will help council make a determination on whether or not it wants to proceed with the project. Kalyn said it’s estimated to cost the city $100,000 to complete an existing, city-owned fibre ring that’s currently being used by city operations but has the capacity to expand.

Some of the cost would be paid for by the Island Coastal Economic Trust if the city’s application for the $50,000 grant is successful.

Kalyn said the initiative was brought forward to council because of community demand.

“The community said, in a 2009 comprehensive business charrette, that business ventures are restricted by the lack of access to affordable enterprise level Internet service,” he said.

The province does have a plan in place to bring the service to Vancouver Island, starting in the Victoria area.

Kalyn said, however, that the system likely won’t be extended up the Island to Campbell River until 2020 or later which will result in missed opportunities. Municipal broadband networks have already been implemented in several B.C. communities including Coquitlam, Kelowna, Kamloops, Grand Forks, and most recently, New Westminster.