Broadband initiative needs council approval as deadlines fast approach

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
May 16th, 2013

The Broadband Task Force reported to council on Monday evening that broadband Internet holds great promise for Rossland’s future competitiveness, but council must act before May 28 to proceed with the plan.

Amber Hayes and Brian Fry presented the task force’s in-depth analysis of broadband and its implications for the City of Rossland. The presentation also requested financial support to acquire the pole permits necessary to implement the broadband project.


Hayes said, “We are here to review the broadband initiative and to finalize the contract between the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation [CBBC] and the City of Rossland”.


“The current Telus scenario in Rossland provides very low Internet capacity and bandwidth speeds. We can now expect to get about 5 to 7 megabits per second download speed, 15 megabits per second if you ask for it, as compared to up to 100 megabits per second through CBBC,” Hayes said.


Hayes expressed the need for Rossland to stay competitive with other communities both locally and around the world.


“There are numerous case studies supporting the competitive advantage provided by broadband,” she said. “With Trail and Nelson lighting up their networks, Rossland needs to stay competitive. Recent U.S. studies have found that having broadband available in the community can stimulate business growth by as much as 30 per cent.”


“We all know we live in a world class environment. Now Rossland can brand itself as a high tech lifestyle destination for companies and remote work individuals to relocate to,” she said.


Fry used the example of popular online entertainment website Netflix to highlight the differences in speed and reliability that broadband can provide. The overall presentation, however, focused more on schools, healthcare and businesses to emphasize the importance of broadband to the community as a whole.


Hayes said it was urgent to act now: “We need to finalise the contract by May 28, 2013, or we will lose the ‘reservation’ and will need to reapply. The application process for the pole permit took 5 months”.


Local interest in broadband is high, the task force reported, based on encouraging results from 18 local businesses who responded to the “letter of interest” the group circulated.


The complete presentation is available at the Broadband Initiative Task Force site.




Following on the heels of the letter of interest, Coun. Jody Blomme, council’s representative on the task force, told council that the next step was to offer a “letter of intent” to local businesses. Eighteen businesses must “buy in” for the program to break even.


“[The letter of intent] will gauge interest and commitment in the community, Bloome said. “I feel that if someone puts their name and address on [it], there is certain kind of personal commitment.”


Not everyone agreed, and Coun. Cary Fisher in particular was concerned that a letter of intent is not binding. 


“Is there any consideration for businesses signing an actual contract?” he asked. “I support the technological advances, I have all the gadgets and I love it. I think the letter of intent just needs more teeth. It needs to be legally binding”.


Blomme responded, “I don’t feel comfortable asking people to sign a contract if we don’t have everything up and running yet.”


“Eighteen businesses have to buy in to reach our budget,” she continued. “I felt it was an okay risk, but if council really wants to see a legally binding contract, we can come up with something like that.”


Coun. Kathy Moore warned of potential losses to the community if council didn’t act now. “We can’t lose sight of the benefits to the city itself,” she said. “To me, its not a deal breaker to not have a legally binding document. I wouldn’t want … to miss out on this opportunity”.


Fisher said, “All we have right now are ideas, we don’t have the nuts and bolts. So now we are going on faith and I think that’s poor planning”.


Blomme conceded, “I will keep the motion on the table for the letter of intent and I will go back to the task force so we can solidify it by coming up with a contract to present to businesses”.


The deadline is fast approaching, however. Council must decide at their next meeting on May 27—just one day before the May 28 cut-off—whether to go ahead with the first payment of $10,500 for the pole permits.


This article was researched and authored by Peter Reed.

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