Colwood to investigate broadband infrastructure

Work would need to be part of a long-term plan for City, council hears

A federal ruling that all Canadians must have access to reliable, world-class mobile and residential Internet services prompted a Colwood resident to write a letter to Coun. Rob Martin regarding the potential for a municipal broadband network.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission announced in December that it was setting up a fund to ensure that by 2021, 90 per cent of Canadian homes and businesses should have access to minimum download speeds of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 10 Mbps.

James Gray, who wrote to Martin, noted the CRTC’s targets are currently “widely unavailable in rural, suburban and other underserved areas.”

The CRTC set up a $750-million fund to support projects in areas that don’t meet their targets. Any new projects that have financial support from government entities are given preference for funding, Gray noted.

“This means our community can build its own Internet infrastructure – or “community broadband” – with financial support from the government,” he wrote.

Colwood wouldn’t have to be the provider and would be able to sell access to the network to private companies and organizations.

“This is something that I think I would like to hear more from staff on,” Coun. Cynthia Day said.

“I think it does merit an opportunity to investigate. It could potentially bring large economic revenue for the city. It also could benefit the citizens by having a better network. I see no harm in investigating,” agreed Coun. Lilja Chong.

Coun. Jason Nault questioned whether Colwood would qualify for any funding help, noting that numerous private providers exist with high-speed Internet services.

Extrapolating funding from a similar municipal project in Olds, Alta., Nault estimated that it would cost $4,800 per home, assuming half of the funding was covered by a grant.

“You can buy a lot of internet time on Telus for $4,800,” he said, adding that Olds’s model does allow for cost recuperation through sales of services.

Coun. Gordie Logan wondered whether this should be a priority for staff with other items taking up much of their time.

Later, Day noted the high cost of Internet service on Vancouver Island and said that if there is a way for the municipality to partner with a third-party to provide a cheaper, more efficient service, that it should be explored.

Council voted to forward Gray’s letter to staff for further investigation.

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