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O-Net is open for business


O-Net, Canada’s fastest, community-owned fibre optic Internet network, is open for business.

Olds businesses and residents can buy the ultra high-speed service after the company launched its services at the community’s TransCanada Theatre Tuesday.

“Eight-and-a-half years of persistence, dedication and passion have culminated today,” said O-Net board chair Joe Gustafson.

O-Net is the marketing brand of Olds Fibre Ltd., the private company owned by the Olds Institute for Community and Regional Development, made up of the Olds Agricultural Society, Olds and District Chamber of Commerce, Olds College and Town of Olds. Eight public and two associate members, Mountain View County and Chinooks Edge School District, make up the institute, which also provides electricity through Mountain View Power, an electrical supplier whose profits are put back into the community.

Institute vice-chairman Dan Daley told the crowd of 125 gathered for the launch the institute was “framed by citizens of common vision for developing a sustainable community.

“O-Net is the result of countless hours of community volunteers and O-Net employees,” he said, adding the venture dovetails neatly with the institute’s goals of cultural, economic, governance, social and environmental development.

Gustafson, an institute technology committee member, said the idea of a community network grew after existing Internet providers declined to provide fibre optic service in 2005.

“In our naiveté, we thought we could just buy a big extension cord and plug it in,” he said, adding a 2008 $2.5-million provincial grant kickstarted development.

“We were the first: we had to ferret out everything” since no other Canadian community had done anything on this scale before.

“We now have a profitable and replicable model for other communities we can share our story with,” he said, thanking the Town of Olds for its $6-million loan and securing a $4-million line of credit after private investors backed out.

Olds mayor Judy Dahl said O-Net is a “shared community foundation that sets in motion a rich seed for economic development.”

She encouraged businesses and residents to “pay it forward and invest it back” since Olds Fibre Ltd. profits are returned to the community.

Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhullar praised the effort, saying Olds is “breaking down barriers to connectivity (and) leading the province.”

O-Net subscription packages offer Internet, TV and phone service. Prices are $99 a month for ultraband Internet with one phone line and $179 a month for ultraband Internet and three lines for small and medium businesses. Residences are $170 a month for ultraband Internet, one phone line and TV. Prices include equipment and installation. All customers pay a $97 sign-up fee. Bolt ons, an array of additional services, are also available.

Lance Douglas, O-Net’s chief executive officer and president, said download speeds of 100 megabytes to one gigabyte per second enable users to “change the way they live, work, learn and play.

“We’re looking at the next level of opportunity here,” he said, since such speeds and large “cloud” storage levels mean the data are moving, not people, enabling local companies to grow and attracting new residents to Olds who can work from home.

Not every Olds home or business has O-Net access yet. The company divided the town into 11 service areas and only six centred around commercial areas have fibre optic service.

“We’ll have fibre to every property line by this summer,” said Gustafson.

Sales are going well, said O-Net marketing manager Nathan Kusiek.

“Hundreds have signed up, but connections were a problem at the end of the construction season.”

More information on O-Net is available online at www.o-net.ca.

rfiedler@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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