February 15, 2018 4:07 pm

High River to build and operate municipally-owned fibre optic network

The town of High River will build its own fibre optic network to provide gigabit internet access to its business community.

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It won’t be long before businesses in the town of High River have some of the fastest internet speeds in the province of Alberta. But they won’t be getting the service over a connection owned by a major telecom player like Telus or Shaw.

Town council in the small community of approximately 14,000 has voted in favour of building its own fibre optic network to connect its business district to the rest of the world, offering internet speeds of at least one gigabit — roughly 100 times the speed available right now — at launch.

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“Technology is changing every industry at a very rapid pace,” said Jodi Dawson, manager of economic development for the town. “All of us in every town know that our economies are becoming more and more dependent on the ability to access high-speed internet.”

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High River isn’t the first town in Canada to take charge of its information technology infrastructure. Olds, Alta. was the first community in Canada to build its own fibre-to-the-house (FTTH) network, offering residents a full suite of internet, telephone and television services over a town-owned connection.

In Coquitlam, B.C., more than 2,500 businesses and 20,000 homes are connected to the municipally-owned and operated QNet fibre optic network.

By contrast, High River’s network won’t be as extensive as it is in other communities, instead focusing on providing connections to the business sector.

“That’s a really large financial commitment to do a whole community,” Dawson said. “We actually have some areas of our business community that have no service at all, so it’s an absolute requirement for that area.”

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Dawson said getting the project built was an important economic development move after realizing that the town wasn’t on the radar of current private-sector service providers to receive a fibre optic upgrade anytime soon.

“The timing just wouldn’t support what we needed,” she said. “At our level in our community, we looked at it and said, ‘we can’t wait to be next on the list. It’s too far out.'”

Dawson said she hopes the higher connection speeds will not only benefit the town’s existing agriculture and health services industries, which are evolving to become more technology-driven, but will attract new industries to the town as well.

“If a technology-based company is looking for an alternative near Calgary,  we’re here.”

The project will cost the town $685,720 over the next five years. Construction is likely to begin this summer with service available by the end of 2018.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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