Broadband Internet could be one click away from reality.
Contracts and letters of intent to sign up for the service will be sent out in the next few weeks to prospective business owners as the grassroots interest in the project is firmed up and a business case is built for the expenditure.
City council approved the move during their regular council meeting Monday night, setting the stage for bringing broadband Internet to the city.
There has been a lot of positive feedback and interest on the project, said councillor Jody Blomme, but nothing down on paper.
“One of the biggest risks to the initiative would be lack of adoption after all of this infrastructure is put in,” she said. “So we want to mitigate those risks.”
Broadband would be $125 for businesses and $50 per month for residents, over the life of a five-year contract.
Councillor Cary Fisher said the broadband idea was good, but there had not been a business case attached to the proposal. He suggested issuing contracts with the letters of intent, contingent on the project being realized.
“This could be better for our telecommunications, but no one has ever priced it out. It’s all anecdotal,” he said.
Council agreed to have the contracts sent out in conjunction with the letters of intent (explanation).
Representatives from the Broadband Task Force updated council on the project and requested financial support ($10,659 plus tax) Monday to acquire the Fortis BC pole permits necessary to start implementing the broadband project.
The Broadband Task Force—made up of technology-associated Rossland residents—had been investigating the potential risks and benefits of broadband to help move forward the initiative and to apply for grants to pay for it.
They have two grant requests in ($75,000 in total) and have constructed a business case around the buy-in of 18 downtown businesses. With the uptake of 18 businesses, the return on investment for the City is calculated at 10 years.
The Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC)—a subsidiary of the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) who could be partnering with the City of Rossland to bring broadband into the downtown—will be paying $4,697 of the cost for 30 poles.
The monthly rental of the poles will be $211 per month. The contract is good in perpetuity, but Fortis BC reserves the right to change the rental price.
The contract needs to be finalized by May 28 or the City loses the reservation and will need to re-apply. The application process for the pole permits took five months. City staff will bring a report back to council on May 27 on the letters of intent, with council action on May 28.
“One of the greatest aspects of this is the potential to do business growth and attraction and retention,” said Amber Hayes, an online entrepreneur and esolutions adoption business coach.
She said there are a number of people who are here because of lifestyle attraction, but added in that broadband would increase the reasons for people to move to Rossland and set up a business.
“And that’s just going to happen if you don’t have those speeds to compete with the larger urban areas,” Hayes said.
The CBBC is offering to create an “open access network,” one that allows any small, enterprising company to use the network to deliver (or access) communications or software services, said Brian Fry, task force member and chief marketing officer for Rack Force Hybrid Cloud.
CBBC is taking on the responsibility of connecting the fibre network throughout the Columbia Basin and up to Rossland City Hall.
The municipality is then responsible for undertaking the expansion of the network to the downtown and municipal buildings, but in partnership with the CBBC, as phase one. The City is building onto the CBBC fibre network, not building their own, said Hayes.
“The City would not be taking on the role of Internet service provider, they just would be helping with the infrastructure,” she said.
In phase two, after the project has been measured for “buy-in” by the downtown businesses and residents, the service could go city-wide.
The open access network also means that any service provider or Rosslander who would like to provide a communications service would have the fibre infrastructure necessary to do so.
Unlike the TELUS or Shaw networks who only offer their own services, the CBBC will allow companies with proven services to participate.
The CBBC is expected to handle the time and money involved in the maintenance, training and management of vans, on-call technicians, dispatch and equipment for the project.
CBBC would be the internet service provider for City Hall. In turn, the City could choose to be the service provider to Rossland, or enter into a contract with other Internet service providers instead to run the service.
Currently, Telus is offering Internet capacity and bandwidth speeds to Rossland in the range of five to seven megabits per second (Mbps) download speed, 15 Mbps if requested.
However, the CBBC network would be able to provide up to a 100 Mbps upload speed.
In 2011 the Columbia Basin Trust board identified broadband as a priority in the region.
Seven years prior, Columbia Mountain Open Network (CMON) placed fibres in the ground throughout the region and reached Rossland—specifically the schools and the courthouse—in 2004 as part of a School District 20 (SD20) contract partially funded by grants.
But the fibres weren’t lit, so the information superhighway still only flowed to Rossland through slower cable and telephone lines.
In September, 2012, council passed a resolution that “council commit to CBBC to extend the fibre to City Hall, other municipal buildings and the downtown core” as part of phase one of the project.
There are several Kootenay communities who have signed up to work with CBBC to build the network, including Trail where they are building a municipally-run, open access broadband network.