Creston’s ability to attract new business is being hampered by the lack of high-speed Internet availability, Creston town council was told at last night’s regular meeting.
KC Dyer, a local computer network specialist, told council that current service for businesses in the downtown core is woefully lacking. While both Telus (ADSL) and Shaw (cable) promise reasonable download speeds — 15 megabits per second (Mbps) and 25 Mbps, respectively — businesses are unable to upload data.
Telus’s basic business service package, at $150 a month, enables an upload speed of only one Mbps and an upgrade to a $1,200 monthly package increases it to only three Mbps. Shaw’s maximum available business package allows for a 2.5 Mbps upload speed.
“Most Kootenay communities (including Cranbrook, Kimberley, Nelson and Castlegar) have higher speeds and others, like Rossland, are working on it,” Dyer said. “We are losing business opportunities because there is no high-speed service in sight.
“Many corporate systems already have, or are developing, online web management frameworks that require image and document uploading for records,” such as real estate and medical data, and government contracts.
Dyer said most Internet service providers are designed to offer much higher download speeds than upload speeds, something that will only change if the Town of Creston, like other Kootenay municipalities, takes a leadership role.
A community-driven fibre optic network approach has been adopted by other towns in the region and Dyer implored Creston to take the first step by partnering with Columbia Basin Trust — which approached town council in April 2012 regarding broadband Internet — to conduct a feasibility study that would assess local needs and the ability to deliver better service in a cost-effective manner. Fibre optic cables run to Creston but aren’t being used except in a few cases.
“CBT will help pay for a business feasibility/viability study if the municipality is already convinced that it is needed, but needs help on deciding how to best implement it in a cost-effective and/or profitable manner,” he said.
Funds could be available from other sources to help offset the actual costs of installing and operating a high-speed system, he added.
“But eventually this will happen anyway?” Mayor Ron Toyota asked.
“Probably, but it could be 10 years away and local businesses will lose out and our ability to attract new business will be lower,” Dyer responded.
Steffan Klassen, the town’s finance and corporate services director, said that the Town of Creston will eventually need high-speed uploading capabilities to comply with new technology demands.
After some discussion, council passed a resolution directing staff to prepare a report regarding the formation of a select committee of council and stakeholders to prepare a stakeholder review, needs assessment, and draft strategy and goals for council to consider. The goal is to do enough groundwork to aid the CBT in conducting a feasibility/viability study.