The Town of Sundre has completed a major step in its plans to establish high-speed internet in the community of 2,800 people.
The town has been steadily moving toward obtaining faster internet service — comparable to what larger urban centres take for granted — by going to a fibre-optics (broadband) system hundreds of times faster than the older DSL system now available.
The town could become one of the smallest communities in Canada to have a community-owned broadband fibre-optic network.
Earlier, the town concluded that the best model to follow would be to have the network infrastructure built for and owned by the town, then offer wholesale access to private Internet Service Providers for a fee, who would then market it to consumers.
According to the town, the fibre optic deployment, projected to cost $2.75 million over four years, could reach operational profitability in less than five years. The money would be borrowed but taxes would not be affected. Ultimately it would provide revenue to the town.
On Monday, Sundre town council received the results of a comprehensive survey done by Banister Research and Consulting about broadband service.
Public consultation was undertaken regarding the level of demand for broadband telecommunications services, and public appetite to invest in a publicly-owned network.
Out of 635 completed surveys, 75 per cent of respondents either strongly or somewhat support the town’s pursuit of broadband fibre optics, the town said in a statement.
Sixty-four per cent indicated they would have high or very high likelihood of switching to any combination of service that involved new broadband internet service.
Seventy-five per cent of total respondents supported the town generating revenue by wholesaling access to Internet Service Providers on a network invested into and owned by the Town of Sundre. Forty-six per cent supported the town inviting a private company to install a network with no town contribution.
As well, 60 per cent of respondents preferred the public option, while only 25 per cent preferred the private one.
As a result of the survey, council decided to direct administration to begin the process of undertaking the next steps necessary to determine the feasibility of deployment of fibre optic cabling along Fortis utility poles in town. Administration is to provide an update to council in September.
The results of the Banister survey are considered accurate 19 times out of 20), with a margin of error no greater than + 3.2%.