BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: Residents of Scugog’s more rural reaches could see reliable access to high-speed internet, sooner than expected, and for a manageable price.
On Thursday, Jan. 8, Council announced their application to the federal Government of Canada’s ‘Connecting Canadians’ grant - which covers some of the costs of outfitting rural municipalities with high-speed internet networks.
Mayor Tom Rowett has consulted local telecommunications company Communicate Freely, operators of the Township’s downtown wi-fi network, to gain insight on the matter. The Township and the local internet provider have lead the charge to connect residents.
“This grant is designed to help communities who lack high-speed internet, or who are underserviced,” said Mayor Rowett. “The lack of reliable internet in the Township was a point of concern - as residents outside of the downtown core have difficulty accessing this essential service, or have to pay top-dollar to do so.”
Scugog’s investment into the broadband network would follow one of three major models: shared infrastructure - where service providers can connect to and expand on the Township’s network, dark fibre - where the Township lays out their own network and accepts payment from service providers to connect their own equipment, and a third option where the Township purchases a local service provider and becomes the sole owner and operator of Scugog’s internet services.
In addition to connecting Scugog’s rural residents and businesses, Mayor Rowett expressed an interest in building a self-sustaining network.
Once lines are put into the ground, they would be controlled by the municipality, and rented to internet providers. The proceeds are expected to cover upkeep costs, with left-over money reinvested into expanding the network.
“Obviously it is cost prohibitive to build a huge network from square-one, but we would hopefully reach every resident in the Township at some point – after municipal accounts and loans are re-paid,” said Mayor Rowett.
The decision of where the first lines will be installed is still up in the air. Mayor Rowett hopes to embark on a comprehensive study and survey of where the connections are most needed and wanted, pending grant approval.
According to Ward 3 Councillor Don Kett, Scugog Island is a prime target for a network upgrade. Councillor Kett stated that he “... did a small survey of 300 Scugog Island residents, and only three of them were satisfied with their current internet service.”
Regional Councillor Bobbie Drew expressed the need for patience with future plans, stating that the Township’s partnership with Communicate Freely may or may not be in Scugog’s best interest - despite the local ownership and current dealings.
“A local service provider is responsible to their own customers only, where the Township is responsible to the whole. We have to be careful,” said Regional Councillor Drew. “I understand we are giving a local internet provider [Communicate Freely] our blessing in applying for a grant, and that we would then investigate purchasing or partnering with that business.”
Regional Councillor Drew asked Scugog CAO Ian Roger if “The township has any leeway if the grant was approved, but council voted against partnership?”
The motion to submit an application for the Connecting Canadians grant received unanimous approval, and is expected to be brought up in council in the near future.
A cost analysis and needs surveys will be forthcoming - including a gap-analysis report from the University of Toronto - expected to be presented to councillors by the end of June, this year.
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