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Report targets strategies for better internet in the County

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MAY 27 2021: The woeful state of internet is no surprise to County residents outside of the core urban areas, but the multi-millions it will take to bring quality and stability means it will likely take years to hit any kind of status quo.

There’s a $70 million price tag for consumer perfection – where the County becomes its own internet service provider and every home and business has the best, fibre technology. Knowing that is not possible, Eric Rothschild of Rothschild & Co. and Rob McCann, of Clearcable Networks, presented council with several strategies to get the best possible service, to the most people.

Last year, the municipality stated reliable internet is a critical infrastructure noticeably lacking for its rural residents. It sought this report to understand overall technology, design, requirements and costs to make decisions on a strategy to move forward.

Council received the report for information purposes only.

Recommendations in the high-level, detailed technical plan and business model range from ‘wait and see’ results of coming provincial, federal, and other funding; to collaboration with current internet service providers (ISP) and adopting policies that promote cheaper installation techniques.

Earlier Thursday, Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis announced $700,000 in funding to help bring high-speed internet to more than 1,100 rural homes in Rednersville/Albury areas and in Bancroft.  Canada’s Connectivity Strategy aims to provide all Canadians with access to internet speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download / 10 Mbps upload. Federal targets include connecting 98 per cent of Canadians to high-speed internet by 2026 and a national target of 100 per cent by 2030.

The wait and see, said Rothschild and McCann, is key.

“Once the County knows which projects have been funded, it will be better positioned to predict what coverage gaps will remain to be filled.”

CRTC National Broadband Data

Their findings show more than 7,000 homes and 990 kms of County roadways remain unserved, or underserved. Density is sparse – about seven homes per kilometre on average to 12 homes per kilometre in model areas.

“The vast majority of County residents pay high prices for slow, unreliable broadband service.”

The technology it recommends is fibre to the home which requires the greatest investment, but also the greatest long-term scalability as it is easily upgradable. The $70 million cost is mostly for capital work with a payback period estimated at 10+ years, assuming 100 per cent subscribe (unlikely) and no subsidies received, also unlikely.

Even if the County had that money to spend, given the investments ISPs have already made in infrastructure, and plans to further expand coverage, the two suggest potential opposition to the municipality being in competition with the private sector, “but we see positive collaboration as the County moves to support existing efforts.”

Though much lower capital costs, ($6 million to $13.9 million) they rejected LTE, 4G and 5G wireless, digital subscriber line (DSL), low earth orbit satellite, mobile, WiFi and satellite noting negatives such as slow speeds, considerable tower infrastructure and long-term performance problems. Wireless maximum speed is 50/10Mbps and no upgrades are possible.

They got to the costs by modelling on three known areas of gap coverage – at Lake Consecon, Milford and Waupoos.

Costs ranged from $6,564 per house in Lake Consecon for 256 homes on 22km of road using a formula of 70 per cent underground and 30 per cent on poles – about $71.76 per metre.

Milford’s example of 183 homes on 12km of road, 30 per cent underground and 70 aerial came to $4,180.43 per house, or $56.48 per metre.

Waupoos, with 280 homes in a five km radius from a proposed tower came up to $1,490.94 per house.

The most severely underserved rural settlement areas include:
• Black River which is currently receiving an average download speed of 4.0 Mbps and is representative of approximately 115 households and businesses.
• Waupoos area which is currently receiving an average download speed of 5.6 Mbps and is representative of approximately 350 households and businesses.
• Village of Milford which is currently receiving an average download speed of 3.2 Mbps and is representative of approximately 200 households and businesses.
• West of Rednersville: Which is currently receiving an average download speed of 4.6 Mbps and is representative of approximately 220 households and businesses.
• East of Consecon which is currently receiving an average download speed of 4.5 Mbps and is representative of approximately 210 households and businesses.
• West Lake area which is currently receiving an average download speed of 4.0Mbps and is representative of approximately 320 households and businesses.

Ways to reduce costs include flexible policies that allow for lower cost install methods that existing ISPs would support; aerial construction (instead of underground) which could save up to 33 per cent depending on the condition of existing poles; building only wireless options and providing a maximum 50/10Mbps though it sacrifices performance and future capacity (not recommended); apply for subsidies and pursing alternative approaches such as encouraging ISPs, public private partnerships and the wait and see for gaps that remain after funding applications have been processed.

View the extensive, detailed report within council’s May 27 Committee of the Whole meeting agenda.

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Dennis Fox says:

    While it is great to finally see the federal level of government recognize the deplorable state of the County’s internet service, it doesn’t explain why our own municipal government expected the public to follow and to participate in “supposed online public meetings.” Our council has made many far reaching decisions, without proper public scrutiny and participation. This report confirms their plan for online council meetings didn’t and couldn’t have worked.

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