The system will be a mixture of fibre optic backbone and towers that combined will cover the county, even reaching remote areas. In some cases the system will use point-to-point laser technology to send unreduced signal from tower to tower to reach more remote areas.
County CAO John Ferguson told a crowd of about 50 residents who turned out for a town hall meeting in Bridgetown Sept. 13 that internet was a top issue with residents in numerous meetings across the county.
In fact, those attending the town hall meeting were asked for meeting topic priorities and internet was at the top of the list that evening.
The project with local company Mainland Telecom has the county borrowing $13 million with applications in for federal government funding to pay the rest.
Without considering any company incentives that might be in place, residents will pay $99 a month for speeds up and down at 1,000 megabits. Commercial speeds will be 10 times faster.
The design and build part of the project uses Nova Scotia Power and Bell Aliant poles and will be done in $1-million segments in a progress-pay process and lit up as it’s built.
He said it is a very detailed process that is not fully in the control of the county or Mainland Telecom.
“We then have the managing/operating portion where we have to balance the interests of Annapolis County with the interests of the company,” said Ferguson. “That work – the devil is in the details – we’re very near completion on the devil in the details so to speak. We’re about 85 per cent negotiated. That other 15 per cent we’re hoping in the next couple of weeks we’ll have a finished document that we can bring forward and have signed.”
He said he’s not promising that timeline because there are two parties involved.
“But with that said the idea is to begin mobilizing for the build of the fibre optic going to the pole,” he said. “It’s been a very complicated process this summer to get this detail in place. We know everybody’s wanting fibre optic. We’re working vigorously on trying to get this done and I mean that. We’re quite excited about it.”
He encouraged those in attendance to tell their neighbours and friends.
“This is your investment. Get on the fibre optic cable system that we put out there,” he said. “We have to pay for this and we have no intentions of raising your taxes. We have to pay for the service as if any other internet service you would get. We’re encouraging you folks to invest in your own infrastructure and support the internet project.”
Ferguson said the idea is that users pay for the system.
“There’s no intention by this county government to put it on your tax bill” he said. “So it’s $13 million dollars, roughly -- don’t quote me on these numbers -- it’s roughly $1.3 million a year to pay that off if it were to be 10 years.”
He said the county has already asked the province to consider changing the requirements that would extend the amortization to 20 years.
“It makes the business case more palatable, less risk,” he said. “With that said, the business case is based on 30 per cent uptake. We know the fibre optic cable will go by about 8,700 homes in the county. So roughly the business case is 30 per cent of that.”
He said if nobody bought the service and it all fell apart, the worst case scenario would be roughly 13 cent on the tax rate for the County of Annapolis, or $130 a year on a home worth $100,000.
The actual fibre optic cable starts in Middleton and will run down Highway 1 to the Digby County line, down Granville Road to Victoria Beach, from Middleton to Margaretsville, then down Shore Road to Delaps Cove, and over Parker Mountain Road. It will run down Highway 201 to Lequille. Ferguson said they will use other approaches for Highway 10 to Springfield and West Dalhousie. Towers have already been bought and landowners have already been asking the county to put them on their property.
But Ferguson said positioning of the towers won’t be known until the exact location of the fibre optic backbone is known – with the exception of one broadband wireless tower.
“We have one tower that will be under construction in Inglisville,” he said. “The tower’s on site. The people that are building it are finishing one over in Lunenburg county and then they’ll be assembling the one here in Inglisville. That one will be mainly sending a signal easterly in the Valley floor.”
Customers of that service will have small dishes on their homes to receive the signal at speeds of 15 mbps and possible 50 mbps if LTE (long-term evolution) is used.
He said that signal won’t interfere with what’s already being provided by broadband wireless in Lawrencetown.
“The intent is not to interfere with that system. It’s a comparable system,” he said. Four other towers will use the point-to-point laser technology to extend fibre speeds to remote areas.
As many people as the county can reach will have service when the $18-million project is done.
“We believe it’s an acceptable risk to meet the needs of what our residents want,” said Ferguson of the project and its cost. “And you’ll get an affordable, unlimited highspeed internet.”