I was invited to attend a West Parry Sound Smart Community presentation yesterday evening that provided an update on the project. In short the project is intended to provide most, if not all, West Parry Sound municipality residents with access to reliable high speed internet. With the exception of Parry Sound most of the communities have limited access to affordable higher speed internet services such as cable and rely on a patchwork of services that include cellular, satellite and DSL. In general these services are not particularly reliable, fast or reasonably priced. One Seguin resident noted that they pay $105 per month for 15 GB of data through one of the cellular providers. Service can be very spotty and unexpectedly change if one of the suppliers decides to reorient one of its towers. The arrival of summer with cottagers and campers in the provincial parks means what was reasonable service is likely to be swamped with the influx of these seasonal users.

There is a definite need for better internet service for communities outside of Parry Sound. The West Parry Sound Smart Community has the objective of developing and implementing a plan to provide this type of service. Vianet has agreed to work with the West Parry Sound Smart Community and provide high-speed fiber service. This service will depend on the installation of infrastructure that is estimated to cost on the order of $30-$40 million. The status of the plan was the topic of last night’s discussion. Rather than summarize the presentation I’ll add my thoughts on the realities of the plan. There is a short summary of the presentation at parrysound.com (no they are not a sister or brother blog to parrysounds.com ;-).

Key Thoughts/Points:

  1. The plan is to provide fiber from end to end with speeds on the order of 100 Mbps. This is very fast and more than almost any residential and most business infrastructure can fully exploit, like your car that can hit 200 kph but you are limited to 100 kph. Right now cable provides about 10-25 Mbps, and cellular 2-5 Mbps (LTE can be higher).
  2. The cost will be split 1/3 Vianet (~$10 Million) and 2/3 regional municipalities (~$25 million). The regional municipalities will look to provincial and federal governments to cover the cost.
  3. The case is being made that high-speed internet is a necessity to attract businesses. That may be the case for ‘onesy and twosy’ type high tech entrepreneurs. Real businesses will also require additional infrastructure, i.e., water and sewer service, that only Parry Sound currently provides. It seems that better internet service really will have its greatest impact on residential satisfaction. The municipalities will be able to offer low taxes and cheap high-speed internet service. Businesses will be interested but unlikely to bring in a 50 person business that depends on septic systems.
  4. Doing some back of the envelope calculations it seems the creation of a Smart Community high-speed internet service will cost about $1,500 to $3,000 per potential user. I have not included Parry Sound in the calculations because we already have reliable internet service in most of the town (cable, DSL and cellular). And we are likely to have higher speed fiber based internet service by the early 2015, without any additional federal or provincial funding.

I’m happy to see this initiative being undertaken by the West Parry Sound District municipalities, but I don’t want to see the Town of Parry Sound paying for it. We carry the burden of providing significant infrastructure services for Town residents, visitors and the outlying communities. We will be ‘wired’ at no cost to the Parry Sound residents regardless of whether the Smart Community initiative succeeds or fails. We are big enough and concentrated enough to be able to attract these services without federal or provincial support and subsidy.

It’s the outlying municipalities that depend on Parry Sound for many of their services who need to find the resources to pay for this type of infrastructure upgrade. Parry Sound has been investing heavily in infrastructure, we don’t need to be subsidizing our neighbouring municipalities’ wish for faster and more reliable internet services. By most any definition Parry Sound already is a “Smart Community”.

Show me the fiber! (Parry Sound in Black & White)