5 Things Municipalities Can Do to Stand Up to the Big Telcos

In the last few months, we haven’t shied away from stating our opinions on (and suspicions of) big telcos that claim they’ll connect rural Canada. We’ve called out their self-serving interests. We’ve recounted their history of letting rural customers down. We’ve even come right out and said big telcos shouldn’t connect rural Canada.

We’ve thoroughly explored why rural municipalities can’t trust big telcos, but we also know that pointing out problems is only helpful if we offer some alternative solutions. In this blog, we’ll do exactly that. Read on to discover five practical things rural municipal leaders can do to connect their community to high-speed internet without the help of big telcos.

#1: Explore Your Options

Maybe you’ve long been aware of your community’s need for rural broadband, but you’re just not sure to start. After all, you’re not an expert in technology or rural broadband, so can you really lead the charge to connect your community? Yes, you absolutely can! Community champions of broadband don’t need to know everything about internet technology to lead the way.

The first step is to explore your options. As you research, you’ll familiarize yourself with common terms like broadband, download and upload speeds, fibre, fixed wireless, and Mbps/Gbps. You’ll explore the different ways to build a network – like inviting in a third-party company, forming a public-private partnership, or pursuing a municipally-owned open access network. You might also explore Canadian broadband funding programs to offset the costs.

You don’t have to do any of this initial research alone. Call 1.877.721.7070 or email sales@rocknetworks.com to book a free consult with us. We can help you understand your options, educate you on how both the technology and the process work, answer your questions and even tell you what other municipalities in Canada are doing.

#2: Accelerate Your Own Rights-of-way Access Process

No matter what your particular plan is for bringing broadband to your community, you can expedite things by accelerating your municipality’s process for granting right-of-way access. This might include drafting a collaboration agreement that requests that your Planning and Permitting Departments expedite requests related to broadband. Or you might start working with the Municipal and Township Councils or First Nation Band Councils to get buy-in on community-wide projects.

You could also begin finding alternatives to telephone lines for your backbone infrastructure, such as rail, hydro, recreational, and water rights-of-ways. We’ve talked before about how Videotron filed a lawsuit when Bell dragged its feet on reviewing open access applications. Until the CRTC eventually ruled in Videotron’s favour, Bell was able to block other companies’ access to their poles. Having a plan that doesn’t rely on telephone poles for background infrastructure can protect you from similar delays.

Remember: delays in paperwork cause delays in network builds. If you can think through ways to minimize procedural roadblocks, you can get your community connected faster and easier.

#3: Document Your Existing Assets

When you’re ready to build a network, you don’t have to start from scratch or rely fully on the telephone poles managed by big telcos. Your community likely has some existing assets that could help you get everyone connected and save you some money.

Those assets could include:

  • Utility poles – Think beyond telephone poles. Service providers in Ontario often attach fibre to hydro utility poles. The Ontario government even introduced the Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act, 2021, to reduce costs and expedite the process of attaching broadband wirelines to hydro utility poles.
  • Vertical assets – Particularly remote areas of your community may require fibre-backed fixed wireless. Tall structures like radio towers, water towers, or cell towers can be used to send internet signals that connect even your most remote neighbours.
  • Conduit – Digging and laying conduit for fibre can be costly and time-consuming. Plan ahead by coordinating within the community to lay empty conduit anytime you have to dig anyway for water, sewer, or other utilities. Keep a record of where conduit is already available to save time and money in your network build.

#4: Build a Business Case

We’ve talked before about the business case for fibre networks. Fibre networks generate actual income for your community. For example, if each household will pay $100/month for high-speed broadband, you can multiply $100 x the number of homes in your area x 12 months to find the total annual revenue that’s potentially available.

In addition to selling services, your fibre network can generate revenue and improve your community by:
● Attracting businesses
● Creating jobs
● Improving cell service
● Installing smart city technology
● Enabling remote work and education
● Powering modern agricultural practices so you can compete in the national market

If you hire a consultant to start a feasibility study for your municipality, you can outline a clear business case for a fibre network that documents all of these opportunities and more. This is a solid first step for getting funding or attracting service providers to your community.

#5: Find an Advocate

Since COVID-19 hit over a year ago, the digital divide has been thrust into headlines, but unfortunately, the urban/rural gap is only widening.

According to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), the median download speed in rural areas at the start of the pandemic was about 5.42 Mbps, far behind the median 26.16 Mbps in cities. Twelve months later, in response to the increased demand for bandwidth, the median speed in urban centres has nearly doubled to 51.09 Mbps. In rural areas, however, the median has barely improved to about 9.74 Mbps.

Rural Canada needs and deserves better internet. You won’t find an advocate in major telcos, but you’ll find an advocate in us. If you’re a municipal leader, we’re here to lead, guide and support you as you take the problem – and solution – into your own hands.

Simply call 1.877.721.7070 or email sales@rocknetworks.com to book a free consult with us. We’re here for you.

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