City broadband expands

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Riel Business Park could see better broadband communication in 2018 following a council decision to fund a $650,000 expansion to St. Albert’s fibre optic network.

Although the route for the expansion hasn’t yet been determined, Gord Coulman, information technology services director for St. Albert, said fibre would be installed toward the southwest corner of the city and would potentially go through Riel Business Park.

The expansion will mark the fourth year of the fibre optic project, which aims to connect city facilities as well as traffic lights at speeds of one gigabyte.

Mayor Cathy Heron said the project is required in order for traffic signals to be monitored and controlled centrally. It also provides groundwork for future Smart City initiatives, which often rely on broadband access.

“We can’t improve our traffic in St. Albert without this,” she said.

Once in place, fibre strands can be licensed to internet service providers, businesses, nonprofits or individuals, who would have to cover the cost of the last-mile build – meaning the section between the fibre line and a premises – as well as a connection fee and a monthly lease fee.

Coulman said the city has based its licensing fees on consultations with the City of Calgary, which charges around $1,000 per month, and Red Deer, which charges $500. St. Albert’s fees fall in line with Red Deer’s, although St. Albert also applies a discount because the city does not do after-hours service.

“The intent is not so much to attract the individual businesses … We would rather they went through an internet service provider,” Coulman said.

“What we would rather do is license to the internet service provider so it can get to places in the city where their own networks don’t go yet.”

Heron said the expansion is necessary in order to attract and retain businesses to St. Albert.

“We are getting a lot of need from our business community to provide adequate and reliable fast internet, and we’re losing businesses because they can’t get it,” she said.

City staff estimate the expansion will pay for itself within six years. The city is currently finishing a project to connect Servus Place, public works, fire stations 1 and 3, Fountain Park Recreation Centre and St. Albert Place to the network. Savings are expected to start rolling in at $8,676 per month in the third and fourth quarters of 2018.

In total, staff estimate the city will save more than $50,000 in the last half of 2018 and more than $100,000 for every year going forward.

St. Albert’s current fibre optic network runs up and down St. Albert Trail, Giroux Road and east to Campbell Business Park.

City staff had originally recommended not to fund the project for 2018 but councillors voted unanimously to fund it.

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