Rossland gets onboard the Broadband train

Arlen MacLaine
By Arlen MacLaine
September 27th, 2013

A decision was before City Council this week to do with the options for installing broadband internet infrastructure in Rossland.  After researching the topic for a year and a half, the Broadband Task Force presented three options.

The staff recommendation was Option B, which entailed that the City enter into a pole permit agreement with Fortis, for a one-time cost of $11,938.  The fibre line would run behind the businesses on the north side of Columbia to City Hall, then all the way up to the water treatment plant.  75% of the funds required to install the fibre would have to be acquired through grants or other fundraising.  To cover the remaining cost, Option B also stated that Council authorize staff to come forward with a by-law authorizing the borrowing of up to $41,000 with a five year term.

Councillor Jody Blomme, who was the Council representative on the Broadband Task Force, made a motion that Council approve Option A, which was seconded by Councillor Kathy Moore.  Option A would see the City enter into the same pole permit agreement with Fortis, and the fibre run along the same path as Option B. Installation of the fibre would proceed, subject to the receipt of minimum grants of $50,000. Option A stated further that Council authorize staff to come forward with a by-law authorizing the borrowing of up to $112,000 with a five year term, to cover the remaining cost.

Resident Aaron Cosbey presented to Council, stating it was the job of City Staff to mitigate risk as much as possible, and that it is the job of Council to decide whether or not the risk is acceptable for the community.

There is a bit more risk involved with Option A, as the City is funding a greater amount up front.  However, to put things in perspective, Blomme compared the project to the Columbia/Washington Project.

“Last summer we put $6 million into a downtown rebuild,” she said.  “We didn’t expect any return on investment, or ask for timelines.  Here, with this project, there is direct payback over 5-15 years, depending on the scenario.  We’re also creating something entirely new with entirely new benefits.  This project, with its short return on investment and increasing profit potential, actually cost 2.5 % the cost of the downtown project.  This City Council allowed for Broadband in the financial plan this year, and with that in it, we were able to put forward a 0% tax increase.”

“I fully support this motion that is put forward, and I agree with Mr. Cosbey,” said Councillor Kathy Wallace.  “It is staff’s job to mitigate risk, and It’s council’s job to recognize whether taking a risk is the right thing for the community or not, and in this case I think it is.”

Councillor Carey Fisher was in favour of Option A, but also brought up the other side of the argument.

“This one is pretty easy, from my standpoint, to support,” he said.  “But then you have to convince the other people in town, that aren’t on the pipeline.  Someone commented that ‘it’s a no brainer’.  It’s not a no brainer.  It’s borrowed public money.  From my point of view, it’s essential, it’s infrastructure that we’re going to be looking at down the road.  But because it only affects a limited number of people, and it’s money we have to borrow, it makes it a much more difficult decision than you think.”

“I’m in favour of this,” said Councillor Jill Spearn.  “What excites me the most is that it is potentially a revenue generator for the City of Rossland, which we have been struggling with for decades.  If this can bring some kind of revenue stream into the City of Rossland, I think that’s a huge benefit for the community.”

There was agreement around the table, and the motion to approve Option A was carried unanimously.  Also going around the table was praise and credit to the members of the Broadband Task Force, which worked and researched this topic tirelessly, for free, for a year and a half.

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