A huge proposed project would drastically improve rural access to the Internet for Ponoka County.
Jordan Young, CEO of CCI Wireless, presented the package to council at its Dec. 10 meeting that suggested a county financial commitment of $2 million as part of the overall $6.2 million infrastructure improvement project.
CCI and the county initially became partners about six years ago when the county financially backstopped the company’s first set of towers, then leased them back to CCI over a 15 year time frame.
The idea would see the county retain ownership of the six proposed new 50m towers, while CCI would take on the cost for the rest of the equipment upgrades to its current 11 towers and add another 24 light pole towers — a 20m technology-equipped pole attached to a light standard — in order to cover nearly 100 per cent of the county. The project, which includes 5G technology upgrades, would also provide speeds of 50MB for downloads and 10 MB for uploads to meet the CRTC’s minimum universal service objective.
“What we are proposing is turning the design process on its ear. Typically, tele-coms come in, say they will put towers here and here and here to give 75 per cent coverage because its the best business case,” Young told council.
“Instead, we have elected to look at every property in the county and design from that perspective back to the network so that we can assure every resident or property can actually get this service if they choose to and if the county wants to proceed.”
He explained that this fundamental change in the design approach comes from CCI wanting to provide the commitment that if someone wanted onto the service, that they could meet that expectation in the county.
“Across the 4,320 county addresses that were turned into mapping data for a complete full connectivity study to ensure coverage for every home and building, we couldn’t get a direct solution for 92 of those,” he said.
“So, we have a 15 per cent contingency built in to allow us to address those individually. If they wanted to sign up, then we would work on a solution. We thought this would be the most cost-effective way, since a design for 100 per cent would cost double or triple while we expect only about 30 per cent will take up the service.”
Young added CCI anticipates attracting another 1,500 customers as a result of the project, with package pricing ranging from $70 to $99 per month, which compares to similar packages in urban centres — another CRTC application requirement.
Much of the design work has already been completed, although one item that will be part of the next step in the process will be looking into other infrastructure that already exists that could be used in place of building new towers. That would lower the overall cost of the project for both partners.
“That’s the one thing we have not done yet, as it requires some complex work on discussions and applications,” Young said.
“As the process goes forward, we are also looking to speak to other possible stakeholders and research grants available to help cut the cost further.”
CCI is hopeful to start construction next summer.
Council left the discussion regarding the project until a future meeting.