Axia interested in high speed fibre optic internet for Canmore
Thursday, Jan 05, 2017 06:00 am
An Alberta company that has already connected a number of communities in the province to high speed fibre optic internet is looking at investing in that infrastructure for Canmore.
Towns like Vulcan and Nanton have already been connected to fibre optic internet thanks to investment in the infrastructure by Axia, an Alberta company that traces its beginnings to Acme, Alta., which is where company founder Art Price grew up.
“He had this vision that connectivity and high speed internet access shouldn’t just be kept in the urban centres, it should really go around the province and rural communities should have equal access to connectivity,” said Axia communications specialist Weston Jacques. “He set out to create this open access model.”
Jacques said the company has $100 million to invest in the infrastructure needed to deliver high-speed internet connection through fibre optic cable.
The infrastructure investment, he said, would depend on how much interest exists in a community. Jacques and Axia team members were in Canmore in November to gauge community interest and hold an open house.
He said the company would like to see 30 per cent of households express interest in what Axia is offering before it begins to assess design of a network.
“It does not make sense to go to a community and invest in a network and build a network unless we know the citizens are on board,” Jacques said.
Community relations specialist Jason O’Connor said the system is designed to be open access, so while Axia would own the fibre optic internet cable in the ground and offer a subscription service, other internet service providers like Shaw could also use the system to offer its subscription service as well.
O’Connor said the infrastructure that exists now for internet – copper technology – might still be sufficient right now, but in the future it won’t be.
“What you get with fibre that you don’t get with legacy technology or copper, is you get symmetrical uploads and downloads, for the photographer, newswriter or GIS developer. Those upload speeds are becoming more important,” he said.
Upload and download speeds offered through Axia’s fibre network reach speeds of one gigabite – which is only the speed at which information is being transmitted. As for data limits, O’Connor said there are none with the fibre optic product they offer.
As to how it works, Canmore is already connected to the wider provincial fibre optic network. Between 2001-04, the provincial government contracted Axia to install the broadband capability with 13,000 kilometres of fibre optic cable put in the ground.
“There is a larger Alberta network that spans the full province and right now Axia is tying into that larger network and building brand new networks in these small towns,” said Jacques, adding communities with fibre optic under development include Raymond, McGrath, Pincher Creek and Fort McLeod.
“We wouldn’t come here if it wasn’t possible, that is how the marketing and sales team determines which community to build up a presence in.”
O’Connor said bringing fibre optic internet to a community also aids economic development, something Canmore politicians appear to have a grasp of with a recently approved capital budget project to explore broadband internet for the community next year.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has also identified broadband internet in rural communities as a contributor of economic development and improving quality of life.
At a recent hearing by the Canadian Radio and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC), FCM challenged that regulatory body’s basic service objective for internet access because it does not include high-speed broadband.
“The basic service objective would need to guarantee long-term, reliable connectivity at affordable prices for all communities,” stated FCM. “The Commission should ensure broadband networks can accommodate rapid technological change and have redundant connections to prevent gaps in essential communication services. The Commission should also prioritize establishing service parity between northern and southern communities.”
Axia officials said the technology they are proposing to install in Alberta communities is transformative and once it reaches its capacity, only the colour of light used needs to change to transmit more data.
“Really we need to determine if there is any interest to move forward,” Jacques said. “It does not make sense for us to build a network where there aren’t engaged citizens and they don’t want it for the community.”
To take the survey, or express interest in the fibre optic infrastructure investment, go to www.axia.com/alberta. Jacques said the survey is like a digital straw poll in that it measures interest in the community, but is not trying to sell the service.
“Once we hit that 30 per cent we go into evaluation and this is where our team of engineers determine how we can make it happen in the community,” he said. “Once that happens, we go into network design.
“We want to go into communities where people have their hand up and we can help them get further.”