Building a 10-Gig fibre-optic highway to prosperity.

Situational Issue:  High speed internet service in Calgary is currently provided by private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that use a combination of some fibre optic, coaxial, copper, and wireless technologies to deliver service at speeds significantly less than 1 gigabit per second; let alone 10.

The challenges with relying on inadequate internet speed supply is 2-fold:

1.    Our private ISPs have shown little interest in expanding out their cable networks or upgrading speeds within the city. 

2.    The City has limited ability to influence current service levels, download and upload speeds, and retail prices for services offered by private ISPs, placing the potential of a lightening fast economic recovery in Calgary at risk.

When striving to achieve a new era of economic resilience, internet speeds in excess of 10-gigibit per second (offered by a new fiber-optic network) would be the step change the city needs for transformative growth.

My Action:  One of my key focus areas as councillor will be to create and sustain economic growth and job creation for all Calgarians.   Calgary needs to re-populate the hollowed-out downtown core – all soon to be 15 million square feet of it.  With the unemployment rate hovering just under 9%, Calgary needs jobs.  Now.  And fast.

The future of our oil and gas prosperity is getting hit from all levels of government, domestically and internationally.  There is a possibility that the industry may not, or could take decades to, recover. If and when it does, it will be significantly changed.

Access to reliable high-speed internet service has become essential for businesses and individuals to grow and prosper.  Broadband internet access has been identified as THE critical infrastructure challenge of the 21st century. It will be the new foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness, civic engagement and a generally better way of life.

It’s time for Calgary to build its own taxpayer-owned, for-profit, self-sustaining ISP to deliver blazing fast, fibre-optic broadband to ALL; residents, businesses, non-profits, public social agencies, education facilities, etc.  These user groups need access to broadband in order to succeed in our 21st century innovation economy and rapidly changing social environment. 

Fiber optic networks contain the primary technology capable of delivering such high‐speed Internet service and, according to numerous industry experts, will be the baseline speed in the future to allow for full access to and use of the Internet to stimulate business and job growth, socioeconomic development and connect residents with municipal and commercial services.

Other cities and towns across North America are doing it.  And the conclusion is clear: the highest-profile success models that exist involve a purely city-owned broadband network.

Which makes sense—in today’s rapidly evolving infrastructure environment, internet access is a modern-day necessity, not unlike power or water.

Best solutions are often local and work out better than handing over control to a private company, like a Rogers or Shaw, to do whatever they want with us.

Of course, like the presence of well-paved roads, if not properly managed, good internet access doesn't guarantee that a city will be successful. But the lack of it guarantees that a community will get left behind as the economy increasingly demands that companies compete not just with their neighbors next door, but with the entire world.

Result:  The business it would bring to Calgary could be transformative!

Calgary could become the next great start-up hub that could fill up with exiles from priced-out Toronto and Vancouver.  It has the potential to create thousands of new jobs and, after its network launch, Calgary could see economic and social benefits in excess of $1 billion in the first five years.  Even lure in industries not typically associated with Calgary.  Even multi-nationals.  We could transform ourselves from a single-industry dependent economy into a leader in autonomous technology, data centers, biotech, cybersecurity and other high-growth technologies.  Even auto building.  All industries that to a large degree rely on quick access to massive amounts of data.

Sky’s the limit!

But most importantly, because it only relies on the movement and transfer of information, the network is future-proof and will build resilience against future downturns.

Today is a new landscape.  Just two years ago, Calgary was Canada’s economic engine as a result of a strong and vibrant oil and gas economy.  Fiber-optic can get us there again, by providing 21st century infrastructure in order to support start-ups and scale-ups, expand our economy, create jobs and empower all Calgarians.

So, let’s get to it today.  It’s proven. We aren’t creating or reinventing the wheel.  We don’t need to spend years or even months planning and studying.  We can capitalize on mistakes that have already been made and what’s been done successfully elsewhere.  Now is the time for action.

We don’t want to get left on the wrong side of the digital divide.