Fibre to the home project ahead of schedule, says Bell rep



By Ron Giofu


Town council received an update on Bell’s fibre to the home project Monday night and the news was that everything is good so far.

Senior manager of network provisioning Darin Meek noted the project got started in July and some areas of the town have been completed. The target date is June 30, 2020.

Meek said it is a matter of “rebuilding all of our infrastructure” as the fibre optic cables have to be laid.

“We have to place all of our cables in every area,” said Meek.

They work with about five other contractors in various aspects of the project, including burying cables, stringing them along hydro poles and even restoring lawns. The areas they have hit thus far were done because they are the “low hanging fruit” and that they were the places where Bell could roll out the plan the quickest.

“We’ve received incredible co-operation from the Town of Amherstburg and the residents,” said Meek.

Bell is also moving ahead with similar projects in LaSalle and Windsor, Meek added, with Tecumseh next on the radar.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he has seen the workers and from what he has heard from residents now with fibre internet, things are going well. He said the workers are courteous, clean and professional and that “they’ve gone above and beyond.”

Fryer said the town is open for business and this initiative will help.

“We are going to be cutting edge with technology and speeds and that will help get businesses to come here,” he said.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said it has been a pleasure to work with Bell officials, noting he has been able to reach them and they have in turn contacted him about matters.

“As mayor, I’ve been genuinely impressed with the relationship they have brought to the table,” said DiCarlo. “I’ve communicated with Bell at every level and I’ve got to say they’ve reached out to me and it’s not just me reaching out to them.”

Residents are pleased, he added, noting he has been tagged on social media by happy homeowners who have now been connected. He also noted that Bell has to lay all new infrastructure, but are doing so much faster than what the town would have done had the town gone on its own.

While the town has to have resources available in case of issues, that is the only contribution the town has to make, DiCarlo added.

“It’s not costing us,” the mayor said. “Bell is paying.”

Internet speed survey shows unsatisfactory results, town looking at other measures



By Ron Giofu


The results from the town’s Internet study are in and it shows the residents of Amherstburg are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with their service.

According to a report written by acting information technology manager Nick Renaud, “administration has recently received over 140 submissions from the community through an online survey aimed to gather more data on actual internet speeds in Amherstburg. Only four per cent of respondents reported speeds that exceeded the CRTC’s 2016 minimum download speed of 50 Mbps and only 28 per cent reported speeds that exceed the CRTC’s 2011 target speed of 5 Mbps. This means that 96 per cent of respondents fell below the 2016 expectations for ‘basic telecom service’ and 72 per cent fell below the 2011 target.”

Town hall

CAO John Miceli said the town is trying to be proactive in dealing with the matter, suggesting the town could eventually try and create a fiber optic system of its own should it be successful in obtaining grant funding. While there are a pair of new services that are utilizing the water tower as a way to deliver Internet services, Miceli believes fibre optic is the way to go.

The services using the water tower impact a portion, but not all of the town, Miceli states and the town is looking for a community-wide solution. The hope is that a provider will step up and bring in better services but the town is seeking $2 million in grant funding with the possibility of going at it alone if need be.

Miceli said administration has a business case to bring to council should the grant be successful.

“We have taken all the necessary steps to be our own Internet provider,” he said.

The town undertook the survey due to a lack of response from the larger Internet companies, with the administrative report stating “the large Internet service providers were reluctant to share the information with administration” as to the options that are available in and around Amherstburg.

Essex County council moves forward with fibre optic Internet plan



By Ron Giofu


Essex County council is moving ahead with a plan to bring high-speed fibre optic Internet to the area but it is clear many council members still have questions.

County council agreed to participate in the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project to the tune of $1.1 million, with over $660,000 due this year. However, the county did not waive its right to a refundable portion – which amounts to roughly $700,000 of the $1.1 million – for the time being as more information is being sought.

SWIFT is an initiative of the Western Wardens’ Caucus and would bring high-speed fibre optic Internet to southwestern Ontario including the Niagara region and the Caledon area.

Geoff Hogan, executive director with SWIFT, noted about $180 million of the $288 million cost will come from federal and provincial governments with $90 million anticipated from the private sector. The municipal share is expected to be at $18 million.

Essex County CAO Brian Gregg (left) and SWIFT executive director Geoff Hogan present the plan to Essex County council during their meeting last Wednesday night.

Essex County CAO Brian Gregg (left) and SWIFT executive director Geoff Hogan present the plan to Essex County council during their meeting last Wednesday night.

SWIFT officials target May 12 for the pre-qualification process to be released with the actual RFP to be issued in October with the latter to close in the second or third quarter of 2018. Construction of phase one is anticipated from 2018-22.

“Our fibre optic network will have plenty of capacity to connect people along the route,” said Hogan.

County CAO Brian Gregg said they understand that critics of SWIFT say it “isn’t swift enough” and said they could move faster if the refundable portions were to be reinvested back into the SWIFT project, however members of county council wanted more numbers.

Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos said he wanted to see the results of the RFP before agreeing to defer any refund, saying they would reinvest anyway to fill gaps in the region. Kingsville Deputy Mayor Gord Queen was concerned that this area might not see any benefits for upwards of two decades, saying people are being asked to “make a commitment that could be 20 years out” with other concerns that it is unsure whether they are going to get “the bang for their buck.”

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo also voiced concerns, stating he wanted a stronger commitment from the private sector as it pertains to connecting the Internet to people’s homes. Cost was another concern for DiCarlo, adding it wasn’t guaranteed that in 20 years there wouldn’t just be nodes that weren’t connected to people’s homes.

Hogan said there is a strong partnership as it is with the private sector and that they will live up “to what we ask for.”

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara believed it was premature to waive the refund at this stage, noting the cost.

“It’s almost ‘trust us – give us your money and you will get the end result’,” said McNamara.

Gregg said there are already funds set aside the budget with funds also allocated in the 2015 and 2016 budgets.

Leamington Mayor John Paterson asked where it would start, and was told around the Toronto, Guelph and Barrie areas but DiCarlo wondered why some work wouldn’t start in this area as well, believing infrastructure already exists. Hogan replied that the way the network is set up, they have to start at the other end of the project work area.