Background Notes from the Mayor's Desk - March 2017
Broadband? What is it and what is Council considering with regard to Broadband?
Broadband is capacity to be able to use technology, with computers, TVs, phones, and other devices, to connect to the internet, through fibre optic cable, to send and receive information. In Sundre we have internet access, but we lack the upload and download speed of larger communities. A fibre optic network would serve our needs now and into the future, but current internet service providers are not willing, at this time, to invest the money necessary to improve our broadband capacity, and there is a demand for improvements now.
Council and Administration have been looking into the details associated with trying to provide broadband to Sundre for the last two years. We have learned a great deal. Council passed a motion Monday, February 27th to take what we have learned to you, the public, to ask two questions: 1) Do you believe there is a market you would support and subscribe to, that would improve broadband service to Sundre?, and 2) Do you support using tax dollars to construct the network necessary to make improved broadband happen?
Some of the reasons Council and Administration believes we need to come to you are:
- there are no providers willing to provide improved broadband to Sundre at this time,
- we can do it ourselves, treat it somewhat like a utility, and generate revenue that will reduce our reliance on increasing taxes as the only way to fund future projects,
- the Town of Sundre is one of a very few municipally owned gas systems in Alberta, and has been very successful at operating our own gas system for decades, providing great service, and realizing revenue that has subsidized taxes and projects valued in millions of dollars, which is similar to what this broadband opportunity may provide,
- our medical community is in need of broadband now to be able to provide the best health care to patients as current upload and download speeds are inadequate and unreliable,
- our business community is in need of broadband now if they are to be able to compete on an e-commerce platform,
- our economic development climate, and our housing market are held back with current internet service levels, while other, more progressive communities are moving forward with progressive broadband initiatives, and attracting growth,
- rather than having your monthly bill payment go out of the community to pay shareholders somewhere else, you could support your local "Town owned" broadband supplier - and have your money stay in the community with "profits" being used to assist in keeping taxes down or paying for upcoming projects, enabling us to keep and use our own community wealth for our purposes.
There are more reasons to consider on the upside of owning our own network, and there are risks if we decide to move ahead with constructing our own broadband network. Administration has provided a very conservative business case outlining how much a project like this might cost, and what the return on that investment might be, if there is a certain percentage of commitment to subscribe to the service from businesses and residents in the community. That is why we need to come to you - to ask if you have an appetite for broadband, whether you would commit to signing up for TV, telephone and internet service, and whether you believe it is a good idea to use your tax dollars to build a broadband network for future "return on investment" opportunities.
You will want to know what it would cost you for service, what the quality of that service would be, how it would compare with Telus and other providers already here, and you will have other questions and concerns I'm sure.
Please watch for upcoming open houses, door to door canvassers, surveys and information sessions in the next few months. Please talk with Councillors about your thoughts and questions. The public, the medical and business communities and other affected groups will be consulted. Should the public say "yes", we will support this venture, and it is a good idea to use tax dollars to fund the project, earliest construction would be into 2018.
Imagine being able to generate money to pay for Town owned buildings, playgrounds, aging pipes in the ground, or subsidize and reduce taxes by taking control of an innovative opportunity now and keep our wealth in the our community for a generation or more in our future - or not. You will be asked to choose what you can support.
Please call me at 403-559-7352 if you would like to speak further about this, or any other topic.
Terry Leslie, Mayor
Town of Sundre