When we think about economic development, we usually jump to new business. But did you know that our internet connectivity can have a significant economic impact?
The City and CRP began discussing broadband a few years ago when I was first appointed to the CRP Economic Prosperity Steering Committee. In 2016, the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) contracted Taylor Warwick Consulting Ltd. for a Regional Broadband Investigation. Their report showed that high-speed broadband services provide foundational infrastructure for community prosperity, resiliency, and quality of life, similar to roads, electricity, water, and wastewater. Municipalities in the CRP, including Chestermere, met last October to discuss municipally-owned fibre networks to provide high-speed broadband.
As a committee member, I’ve come to appreciate the many benefits of high-speed broadband, including transmitting information and communication at high-speeds which enhance business innovation and performance. As we pursue commercial development, broadband can help us better attract businesses that need fast, reliable internet services and want to be part of a dynamic and progressive community. We can shift from relying on limited material resources to virtually unlimited intangible resources that promote efficient and environmentally friendly energy consumption.
There are also many benefits to residents. We will have faster, more reliable internet, easier access to online products, and better educational and healthcare services. We can support families who work from home, and keep up with the increasing number of internet-capable devices in our houses. Future services to residential homes will likely prove to be very desirable and we may pay less than we do now for our cable and internet requirements.
The CRP Committee is exploring options to bring high-speed fibre internet to a few select communities. Chestermere has joined four municipalities to study the options and costs, and we are considering a shared agreement to secure unused fibre infrastructure for participating communities. If we move forward, this means we would lease fibre optic cables for a privately-operated network instead of bandwidth. Costs would be shared with the participating municipalities, and there may be provincial funding available.
To learn more, I encourage you to read up on the community of Olds, Alberta, which was the first rural community to build a fibre network and start its own Internet Service Provider (ISP). As always, contact me anytime if you are interested in this or any other topic.
Patrick Watson, Councillor
City of Chestermere