Today’s Poll

Nelson broadband project offers new website and upcoming workshops

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
June 17th, 2014

Is Nelson’s broadband project floundering in confusion, or moving along at a slow but steady pace? That depends on whom you ask.

Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson says that cautious and gradual implementation of broadband has been the plan all along.

“You don’t want to try to market something when you are not quite ready to market it,” he said.

The Nelson broadband project is an initiative of the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership (NAEDP), which is comprised of the City of Nelson, the Nelson Chamber of Commerce, and Community Futures.

Fibre-optic cable buried with hydro lines

During the past two years, while relocating its downtown hydro lines from poles to underground, the city took the opportunity to bury fibre-optic cable for connection to downtown buildings. The city will provide the cable and a connection to it at prices listed here. Businesses must then work with an internet provider to obtain specific services. 

Schools and the college connected

So far, according to city staff, about 20 buildings are connected, as well as schools, campuses of Selkirk, and government buildings.

Thomson says a few early adopters like the owners of the Daily News building and the Hume Hotel connected early, and after that the NAEDP decided to hook up schools and several college campuses in Nelson and has been doing that for the last few months.

Thomson said they did not try to market the services to more businesses during that time because the local internet service providers were busy hooking up the schools and might not have time to work with businesses as well.

Workshops and a website

Now, says Thomson, the NAEDP is ready to market the program in a more focused way to businesses and will offer some workshops in the summer and early fall. The sessions will help businesses decide on the costs and benefits of broadband. The dates of those will be announced soon.

He said that in the meantime business people may go to www.nelsonbroadband.com to have many of their questions answered including why broadband may or may not be desirable for their specific business. Thomson admitted that even that new website has so far not been extensively marketed.

The mayor is sceptical

Mayor John Dooley has another view of the broadband initiative.

Businesses in Nelson are confused and misinformed about it, he said at last week’s city council meeting. He chastised all the parties involved in the project, although not specifically by name, for allowing this confusion.

“We need to get out in front of this,” he said.

Dooley said several times that he has been hearing about this from businesses.  When asked later by The Nelson Daily how many businesses, he replied, “Four.”

A careful roll-out

Justin Pelant thinks the project “is rolling it out at a safe clip. In other communities who have brought broadband in without taking the time to figure out costs, it is exceeding budgets. So we are trying to roll it out so nobody is getting stuck with a huge bill, either the taxpayers or the businesses.”

Pelant is president of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce and the owner of Ted Allen’s Jewellery.

Education needed

He says that as a small business owner it can be hard to find the time to educate oneself about what broadband is and how it might be useful. He said the upcoming workshops this summer and fall will help.

Other than the workshops, Pelant says, it will be the internet service providers’ job to educate businesses. Their job will be to advise businesses on how to get the most appropriate service at a reasonable cost.

What Nelson’s own “cloud” could be used for

Pelant says broadband will be like Nelson having its own “cloud,” located in a specialized room at city hall. Businesses that store or move a lot of data will find that useful, he said.

Another use might be Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP), which delivers phone service over the internet rather than through a more expensive traditional phone provider.

Other possible uses include video-conferencing, storage of security camera data, more secure credit card sales data, transfer of large video or other media files, and opportunities for big city companies to operate partially in Nelson.

Connection means capital improvement

Pelant says hooking up a building to broadband is a capital improvement and may help a commercial landlord attract tenants.

Building owners who want to get hooked up should start by calling Kalum Lauritzen at the City of Nelson: (250) 352-8258, or email nelsonfibre@nelson.ca.

 

Bill Metcalfe is a freelance journalist who covers Nelson City Hall for The Nelson Daily. If you would like to receive a twice-monthly email with links to his recent city hall stories, send a request to billmet4@gmail.com. 

 

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