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City’s fibre network looks to evolve through municipal legislation

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
May 29th, 2016

The evolution of the city’s fibre network has begun.

Last week the city-owned Nelson Fibre Network asked city council for several bylaw changes to help the service “evolve” as it prepares to position itself to build a broader broadband market in the city.

The city’s manager of Information Technology and Fibre Network, Allison Sutherland, requested several changes to help move the network’s strategic plan forward.

“It’s a high value utility and we want to make sure people are using it and investing in their technology to support it,” Sutherland told council.

The changes include an update of the Fees Bylaw with the addition of new rates to stimulate growth and adoption, as well as addressing potential service sharing scenarios.

Under the proposed bylaw change, with one service going into a building, others are able to share in it.

“If we are going to bring that fibre into the building, is there an option to benefit those other folks who are also in the building,” said city manager Kevin Cormack. “That should help make our market larger.”

He said the city is very cognizant of not competing with the private sector for no real strong reason. But in the case of Nelson Fibre, the piece that is uncompetitive in the city’s view is the large users’ market.

“That’s the sector we really want to make our own in our community,” he said.

“Service sharing is probably one of the most frequent requests that I had heard,” said Mayor Deb Kozak.

The problem was that smaller businesses that may have wanted to have broadband, but didn’t necessarily have the funds a large corporation had, were unable to afford the fibre. With a cost-sharing scenario it levels the playing field.

“I think those changes will actually assist in attracting people here as well,” Kozak said.

The new rates would “match” existing agreements with anchor tenants and allow Nelson Fibre to remain relevant against other broadband offerings.

“It will create the ultimate shared service with our data centre expansion,” Sutherland told council.

The changes would increase the number of service providers and would help support the live/work developments like Nelson Commons.

Home-based businesses is one of the proposed rates coming up, as well as a multi-family residential rate in the downtown.

“There is no reason why the Nelson Commons residential area could not be lit up if the bylaw changes are approved,” Sutherland said.

But that does not mean neighbourhoods would be receiving wiring any time soon, said Cormack.

“If we brought that in, we would have to subsidize (installation) by millions of dollars,” he said. “But that isn’t our target.”

Some definitions in the rates would also be clarified, said Sutherland.

As well, the Optical Service Bylaw would also receive some work. Through the historical installations of some of the fibre installations there are some bylaw infringements that need to be dealt with, she said, mostly resulting from a lack of understanding, some subletting issues.

The bylaw changes would also cover what the utility actually delivers in terms of the service that is topped up by service providers.

And it is a good service. The City of Nelson actually just provides the utility, but it does not provide any service. The city’s responsibility ends with the installation of the fibre-optic panel.

But the city’s dark fibre offering is the lowest in Canada, it was discovered through research.

“So we are in a good place as far as being competitive with other municipalities,” Sutherland said.

The Fees Bylaw changes would be crafted to stimulate growth and adoption, as well as to address potential sharing scenarios.

The changes would match agreements for anchor tenants and would remain relevant against other broadband offerings, as well as creating shared services with datacenter expansion.

Nelson Fibre is like Nelson Hydro utility, except not everyone needs it or is in the service area

Bylaws apply to all fibre customer types and service providers, there are no other agreements

The city-owned provider will deliver a city staff report on problems-to-solve that the bylaw changes result from.

A 58-page marketing and sales plan will also be delivered at the upcoming meeting that will identify target markets and make them aware of Nelson Fibre and “hopefully increase our adoption,” said Sutherland.

City council referred the bylaw changes to staff for deliberation at the upcoming June 7 business meeting.

Nelson Fibre customers update

Fibre infrastructure is currently used by:

  • 21 unlimited service sites (RDCK, City of Nelson, province, schools)
  • 32 businesses with 100MB fibre service;
  • Theatres and innovation centre are upcoming 
visionaries;

Anchor (customer) tenants include:

City of Nelson (10 sites); School District 8 (seven sites); Selkirk College (three sites); provincial offices (three sites); RHC (three sites); Kootenay Co-op (three sites); KCDS (two sites); RDCK (two sites); service providers (minimum two sites per provider); CBBC (network and internet gateway provider).

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