The more things change, the more they stay the same. Here’s what made Citywest awesome in 1998: bit.ly/cMTDCJ
An independent telephone company in Prince Rupert, B.C. is implementing Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) technology in an effort to attract new business to the forestry- and fishing-based community.
In January, City Tel acquired ADSL routers and switches from Cisco Systems Canada Co., along with Aurora, Ill.-based Westell Inc. modems capable of running ADSL and fibre access on a single line. The 35-employee outfit, the only independent telco west of Thunder Bay, Ont., also has a cellular service and is one of two Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in town.
Dawn Dalley, City Tel’s marketing and development manager, said the company favoured ADSL over other options because the copper phone wire network required for the ADSL required no upgrading. Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) was considered, but City Tel preferred ADSL for cost and reliability, Dalley says.
The broadband system is now in the final test phase with a sampling of residential and education buildings, while the telco awaits CRTC approval.
An 18-hour drive north of Vancouver, the coastal city has a population of about 17,000, including 6,200 households and 3,000 businesses. In such a rural setting Internet service is especially important for people, Dalley says, not only for e-mail and research, but for buying hard-to-get items.
She says BC Tel hasn’t announced any plan to provide broadband infrastructure in Prince Rupert, nor has the local cable company, likely because there isn’t enough profit to be made.
The city’s motive is to boost a shaky, resource-based economy where salmon stocks are depleted and the only cannery left, which employs 1,200 seasonal workers, is teetering.
The local cellulose mill employs about 800 workers, but poor market conditions have led to shutdowns recently, casting a black cloud over the mill’s long-term prospects.
“We’re quite happy to have the role of pumping up the city and bringing it forward,” Dalley says. “It’s a gift. We’ve got a seven-year payback. We won’t lose money on it, but we’re not going to be rolling in money for the next couple of years.”
City Tel considered Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) but preferred ADSL for cost and reliability, Dalley says.
If approved, residential customers will be charged a flat rate of $50.95 for unlimited access; another pricing model will be offered to commercial customers. The network has been tested at speeds of 2.44 mbps downstream and 1.1 mbps upstream to all parts of the city.
“We’re trying to take the economy away from the resource structure and place an infrastructure in the city that gives us room for development. We want to encourage people to stay here and foster an entrepreneurial spirit, and that’s happening.”
Sparked by new infrastructure, including a switch upgrade which will allow more features, the local credit union started up an information systems department, Dalley says, and City Tel is working with a local education centre to bring in training.
City Tel expects up to 500 ADSL users within the first year and 1,200 users by the year 2000.
“It’s my understanding that lots of independent telcos in Ontario are looking at what we’re doing now and modeling after the same thing, because it’s an uphill battle all the time when you’re dealing with the big guys, so you have to stay competitive.”
Robert Lloyd, general manager of Cisco Systems Canada Co., says the idea of using networking and Internet access to provide competitive advantage is a new trend.
“Schools, the local utilities, and local governments all view the construction of a competitive telecommunications infrastructure as one of their platforms to maintain a vital community,” Lloyd says. “We’re seeing more cities in Canada take a similar approach.”