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RFD- 3610 Presentations   Item #:   2. e.    
Committee of the Whole Meeting Agenda
Meeting Date: 06/17/2019  
Title:    Spruce Grove Fibre-Optic Broadband Strategy - Walker
Department: Economic & Business Development  
Strategic Vision Element: This topic relates to all three of the City’s strategic vision elements contained in Council’s Strategic Plan Related Goal: Spruce Grove has a robust, growing economic base that generates balanced revenues to support the City’s high standards for services and programs.

Information
Request for Decision Summary
This is intended to inform Council on the state of broadband service in Spruce Grove, review a proposed fibre-optic broadband strategy and obtain Council feedback.  The development of this Strategy was a key recommendation contained in the Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2022.
 
Proposed Motion
That Mr. Bruno Peters, Deputy Regional Director, Canada West and Mr. Keith Ponton, Associate and Senior Systems Consultant of IBI Group be thanked for their presentation; and

that the Fibre-Optic Broadband Strategy be received as information; and

that feedback received from Council be incorporated into the final report.
 
Background/Analysis
As one of the strategic goals in the Economic Development Strategy & Action Plan 2017-2022 approved by Council, access to state of the art broadband services at competitive rates was recognized as essential to attract and retain high quality businesses and jobs.  Four specific objectives were identified as follows:
 
  1. Develop a next generation broadband strategy for Spruce Grove that provides options and recommendations on building out a fibre-optic network;
  2. Prepare a recommended implementation plan for a fibre-optic network for consideration by City Council and incorporate into the Corporate Plan going forward;
  3. Establish engineering standards that may require the installation of conduit in new subdivisions and road/utility rehabilitation projects;
  4. Investigate the cost and benefit of pursuing a ‘smart city’ standard in the utilization and availability of high capacity broadband.
The development of the Fibre-Optic Broadband Strategy was a collaborative effort between Economic & Business Development and Information Services.  The City retained IBI Group to assess the broadband connectivity and service levels in Spruce Grove specifically related to our commercial and industrial areas and develop a strategy for addressing identified issues.  The analysis confirmed anecdotal evidence that Spruce Grove's commercial and industrial areas are critically under-served in terms of broadband connectivity which is leading to a growing competitive disadvantage in retaining and attracting investment for companies requiring wider band widths and speed to move data.  Residential areas are reasonably well served today with more competitive offerings but the strategy also needs to consider the long term requirements of ever increasing demand for high speed connectivity.  

In response to these findings, IBI Group has prepared a Fibre-Optic Broadband Strategy that contemplates the City taking a more active role in expanding broadband connectivity through a combination of City initiatives and partnerships. The presentation from the IBI Group will be done by: 
  • Bruno Peters, Deputy Regional Director, Canada West and
  • Keith Ponton, Associate and Senior Systems Consultant. 
There are a number of strategic recommendations coming out of the Report intended to enable the City to create a long term competitive environment where advanced high speed broadband communication services are available to all commercial and industrial areas.  The recommendations are intended to result in the build-out of a fibre optic infrastructure network that integrates and takes advantage of the synergies between both municipal and business needs.  These recommendations include: 
  • Advance negotiations with telecommunication carriers to confirm intentions for fibre optic investment and focus priorities on industrial and commercial areas that are under-served or where new lands are under development.  This means working collaboratively with carriers on issues such as planning and coordination of City utility projects, coordinated planning and construction approvals to reduce the time and cost of installation of carrier infrastructure. 
  • Update engineering standards to treat fibre-optic conduit systems as a municipal utility and include budgets in future roadway/utility construction projects to fund the deployment of these systems at the same time as other civil infrastructure work, such as City Centre revitalization and Diamond Avenue rehabilitation, is undertaken.  This could provide the backbone for a future open access network to help generate competition and new service delivery platforms. 
  • Reprioritize and advance the sequencing of the City’s Municipal Fibre Ring Plan to connect City facilities, improve broadband capacity and provide improved reliability for the City’s broadband communications infrastructure.  At the same time, take advantage of the synergies created by installing additional conduit to build out fibre optic network connections into the City’s industrial and commercial areas.   
  • Invest in the creation of a Smart City strategy that will provide guidance on the adoption and use of Smart City technology and infrastructure throughout many aspects of municipal operations and inform the future needs of the City’s fibre infrastructure.
  • Develop a full engineering and business plan that facilitates the integration of these various elements with the goal of having a fibre optic network in place that provides service for the industrial and commercial areas of Spruce Grove within a 5-7 year timeframe.  The plan should consider opportunities for some level of cost recovery.   

The IBI Group presentation and the Fibre-Optic Broadband Strategy for Spruce Grove are both attached.    
Options/Alternatives
The Fibre-Optic Broadband Strategy identifies a number of business models for the delivery of broadband services in Spruce Grove.  These cover a range from the status quo to public private partnerships to building and operating a public network.  Every option has its pros and cons and there are many examples of what various communities across Canada and the U.S. have adopted to fit their own circumstances.  The key factor is how much risk is a municipality prepared to take to meet its objectives for state-of-the-art broadband services.  For example, Olds (O-NET) and Port Coqitlam (QNet) and invested heavily in their municipally-owned broadband networks but this required major investment and commitment of resources with many challenges.  On the other hand, forming partnerships with existing service-providers may act to deter competition and tie a municipality to that company's business plan.  

The strategy recommends a more nuanced approach that integrates both City and private interests so that we are not limited to any one provider while at the same time incurring a reasonably low risk.  The risk would be the investment in conduit that may remain "dark" for a few years before it is connected and utilized.   
Consultation/Engagement
As part of developing the Strategy Report, there was extensive consultation with businesses in Spruce Grove, telecom providers, school boards, NAIT, Spruce Grove Chamber of Commerce, City Centre Business Association, Alberta Government, various municipalities and other stakeholders.  An earlier draft of the Report was vetted through the Economic Development Advisory Committee of Council.   
Implementation/Communication
The Strategy includes a recommended deployment plan for fibre-optic installation in the commercial and industrial areas of Spruce Grove.  Funding options are limited but if coordinated with build out of the City fibre ring and civil works projects such as roads and utility infrastructure, the costs are be reduced substantially.  Government funding programs are almost entirely geared to rural areas as the objective has been to provide a basic level of broadband service to rural and remote communities.  For mid-sized urban centres like Spruce Grove, the leadership will have to come from the municipality is securing high capacity broadband service.  Both the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board and Edmonton Global have started to look at the issue as a competitive factor but it is unclear whether anything concrete will come of it besides advocacy.  
Impacts
The lack of high capacity broadband connectivity in our industrial and commercial areas in Spruce Grove has become a major competitive factor in being able to retain and attract businesses with high data load and speed requirements.  The Fibre-Optic Broadband Strategy provides a possible fibre deployment plan that extends fibre-optic connectivity into the commercial and industrial areas.  This deployment plan works in conjunction with the continued build-out of the City Fibre Ring network over the 2020-2023 period.  The main components are the City Centre and Westwind commercial lands, South-West industrial lands and South-East industrial lands.  There may be opportunities to reduce these costs if the City can partner with telecom providers or other stakeholders who may have an interest in building out or adding to their fibre-optic infrastructure in Spruce Grove.

Attachments
PowerPoint Presentation
City of Spruce Grove Fibre-Optic Broadband Strategy

City Council and Committee of the Whole agendas and minutes are posted on the City of Spruce Grove website for information purposes only. These agendas may be changed at the discretion of Council by the addition or deletion of items. Anyone reviewing the draft agenda should do so on the understanding that it is subject to change by Council.

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