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Broadband internet to light up Rossland’s downtown core
Council made an in camera decision on Monday evening to spend about $170,000 to connect all the municipal buildings—excluding the museum—and the downtown core to the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporations (CBBC) network.
At the beginning of the year, Mark Halwa, CBBC’s chief operating officer, presented to city staff the possibility of connecting Rossland City Hall to the regional high-speed fibre-optic internet network. In May he also presented the broad strokes—and potential for expansion—to a group of interested residence. We reported on the event here.
Coun. Jody Blomme and Coun. Kathy Moore also attended that public meeting and returned to council with great enthusiasm to get broadband on the agenda. Council debated the issue and decided to receive Halwa’s presentation.
The Broadband Advisory Committee (BAC) was struck to consider the potential options in more detail with city staff and the CBBC. On Monday, council debated in camera the six options the CAO Task Force prepared—the entire memo is attached at the end of this article. They decided in favour of option three, as recommended by both BAC and the CAO.
Option three: “Commit to CBBC to extend the fibre to City Hall all other municipal buildings and the downtown core. The incremental cost of the investment must either be funded by the City or by the revenue from the customers in the downtown or both the City and the customers. This option takes into consideration the partial funding provided by CBBC.”
The expected cost of $170,000 excludes connectivity to the museum building.
Kumar wrote in the memo, “Broadband telecommunications systems will likely be one of the major driving forces shaping the economic sustainability of well positioned communities in the years and decades to come.” He added that broadband access will “profoundly affect ... decisions about where one works, lives and the type of work one will do.”
Before laying out the results of the task force investigation, Kumar noted that broadband connectivity already exists for some residents who are close to the fibre network at the courthouse and schools, and “are able to pay.”
The connection to City Hall was the first option and the smallest step council considered. Here, CBBC has committed to covering the capital expenditure for infrastructure, and the city pays a modest monthly fee. The “financial implication,” Kumar wrote, is “insignificant.”
The next step up was “option two,” an investment of up to $100,000 to extend services to all municipal buildings, including the arena, the swimming pooi, the public works yard, the library, and the museum. The report noted that public access to the service might be available through the library, museum, or City Hall.
The third option—and the one the CAO Task Force recommended and council has chosen to pursue—connects the downtown core and all municipal buildings except the museum for a cost of some $170,000.
“It is unlikely a financial return on investment merits this investment,” Kumar wrote. “However Rossland must recognize that, like many other communities in close proximity to each other, it competes to attract people and resources. ... It is a policy initiative relating to advancing the city into the future.”
BAC concurred, “We believe that doing less than the downtown core does not accomplish enough to position Rossland as an excellent location for today’s business environment: Two
neighboring communities of Rossland are already moving to offer broadband within
their city core.”
BAC added that they are “confident” funding support can be found from CIIF (Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund), SIDIT (Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust), and WD (Western Economic Diversification Canada). Furthermore, they suggested “adjustments” to option three —such as deferred installations of some electronic components until customers sign up—that could reduce the bill by as much as $60,000.
Option four looked beyond just the downtown core to a “target area” that has yet to be disclosed. Option five was the full meal deal, hooking up the entire community at an expected cost of roughly $4 million.
The CAO’s report raised a number of issues to caution the city against jumping into offering a full scale internet utility, as in options four and five.
Kumar wrote, “A municipal utility service requires extensive investment with market share already saturated by the two large utility entities. A third utility or an existing service provider must have [a] sufficient customer base to succeed.”
Nevertheless, BAC wrote, “If more funding becomes available, we recommend that the city use ‘option four’ ... Although there are higher capital costs for that, the increase in exposure to potential subscribers significantly reduces the payback time.”
The details of how the service might operate are not available at this time, although BAC wrote, “we recommend that the city rely on CBBC’s efforts to facilitate partnership with a willing ISP [Internet Service Provider].”