Friday, January 29, 2016

MD of Pincher Creek commits $10,000 toward plan to improve rural internet to MD, Waterton, Cardston areas

Toni Lucas

On Tuesday January 26 Council for the MD of Pincher Creek No. 9 heard from Improvement District 4 Waterton Lakes National Park Chairman Barney Reeves.  Reeves appeared before council as a delegation.  He asked council to consider having the MD tpartner with the Waterton Community Broadband Network (WCBN) in WCBN's application for an Alberta Community Partnership Grant, including a contribution of $10,000 towards the project, designed to enhance internet access in specific rural areas of Pincher Creek and Cardston County. Reeves said the WCBN is a community owned and operated broadband fiber and wifi system currently serving businesses, residents and visitors to Waterton. Later in their meeting council agreed to the proposal and passed a motion to partner and contribute the $10,000. The grant application deadline is February 5, 2016, which prompted the council's expediency regarding the matter.

Reeves said the reason WCBN is applying for the grant is "To provide services to people in areas in PC division 1 and 2, and Cardston County divisions 1 and 4." He explained "The reason being, the current services are marginal in these fringe areas of the two municipalities. Many people that I have talked to from that region in both municipalities are concerned that they get better service, and are aware of what we have in Waterton and have inquired if we can be the internet service provider."

"This spring we will have one gigabyte of service from Telus, Telus being the only fiber into Waterton, and there will be no other fiber, ever, into Waterton because under the National Parks Acts Amendments, no new right of ways are allowed for utilities inside of national parks." He said WCBN has invested over $200,000 in and electronic operating system with the capacity to serve the adjacent municipalities and they installed fiber optics to all the park offices last winter. "The fiber itself is a separate investment." He proposed two plans: to go north of the park, and then to do a study of the MD and Cardston Districts to the northeast. "The undeserved areas of the two areas."

Reeves said there is already fiber going to the Prince of Wales Bell tower, and they want to install a dedicated radio to link to Crooked Creek. "Its halfway between Belly River and Waterton River on Highway 5," then use transceivers to serve the blind spots. To go for the grant they requested a $10,000 commitment from each the MD of Pincher Creek and the County of Cardston. "We present to Cardston County yesterday at their meeting, and they approved their contribution. Our contribution will be, in terms of an asset, will be a dedicated fiber line, and the radio in the Prince of Wales tower. We have the other (sic?) already there in place." When Councillor Garry Marchuk asked how many residences would benefit from the new infrastructure Reeves said there were twelve who will be in direct line of sight of the tower and additional homes that would benefit from a receiver at the Hawks Nest, and he also mentioned the Waterton Springs campground which services a number of people.

Reeves said at this stage the plans would not benefit Division 2 of the MD due to the geographic obstacles of Pine Ridge and Palmer Ridge. He said they hope to continue expansion to a variety of undeserved areas in the MD of Pincher Creek and Cardston County. He estimated residential costs at approximately $250 for equipment purchase and $70 per month for service.

Some of the layout of the financial plan for the grant presented to council were as follows:

Project budget Phase 1
  • Radios - Telus CC and POW $150,000
  • Transceivers (Blind Spots) Includes installation $5,000
  • Signage and Misc. $ 2,000
  • Total $157,000
Operating expenses are not grant eligible:
  • Includes Telus tower rent, Fortis electrical, Waterton Community Broadband network internet service and Waterton Front wifi network operation maintenance.

Project budget Phase 2
  • MD Pincher/Cardston County wifi build out planning and engineering study$50,000
  • Summary for grant
  • ACAP eligible capital costs for grant application -Equipment and engineering for the grant $207,000
  • Municipal cash contributions MD and Cardston County @10,000 each totaling $20,000
  • Waterton Asset Contribution $10,000 $10,000
  • Prince of Wales Bell Tower fibre connection to WCBN fibre broadband network

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