Campbell River: Mission to reduce broadband costs spurs innovation

Over head view of Campbell River, which just built its own community broadband network.

Featured Community Broadband Leaders

The “Salmon Capital of the World” has a new claim to fame: Its very own municipal broadband network.

In November, Campbell River became the first municipality on Vancouver Island to operate its own Internet network. The city partnered with AEBC Internet Corporation to create the Campbell River (CR) Advantage program to make fiber optic Internet services available to city residents and businesses.

The city took on the project not because of a lack of connectivity, but rather to lower bills for consumers, said Warren Kalyn, Campbell River’s information technology manager.

“We did approached the telcos and had a discussion with them about how we could mitigate the high broadband costs as much as possible,” said Kalyn.

“We got very little response back from them other than their business model is the same for any rural or urban center. The catch here is basically that they incorporate the cost of capital and construction into there monthly billing which can be quite high. This meant that small communities like ours would be hit hard with these initial high costs.” 

City council gave staff the directive to start looking for options that would alleviate the cost issue and municipal broadband networks kept coming back as best option.  

“Our system is an open access broadband network,” said Kalyn.

"It allows the city to install fiber infrastructure through various business in our downtown core. Then we lease access to wholesale service providers to come in and sell those services to the connected buildings and clients.” 

The revenue that comes back from the lease access helps to drastically reduce rates for broadband access as well as other multiple Internet service provider (ISP) services. By taking on this project Campbell River has eliminated the capital cost that is usually associated with monthly billing that ISPs use and the savings are passed on to consumers and downtown businesses.  

“We are putting into our new building bylaw that all municipal communications conduit must be placed into all new building communications rooms going forward beside the other telcos such as Shaw and Telus.”

Phase 1 has been completed with fiber into the electrical rooms of seven buildings, Phase 2 will see a further 13 buildings possibly more by 2019.

The upstream provision is being addressed next were a large subsea cable will be brought into the east island area from the Vancouver exchange which would be “a game changer for this community and wholesale providers. This was just approved with the connect to innovate initiative. Campbell River will be one of the primary landing spots for that to tie into our data center. Getting a straight connection to the exchange is going to be amazing.”

Kalyn stressed the goal has been to get the cost of broadband down.

“We came in line with the same approach as the CRTC has taken with making sure that costs are reduced through competition and not regulation and we’re embracing that, said Kalyn.

“By allowing wholesale service providers to come on and access our data center has substantially reduced the cost of these services in Campbell River so it does work. “We’ve also seen the telcos become incredibly competitive now too. They have competed against us on a number of building access and there prices have dropped substantially in order to be competitive so it's basically a win win situation. If we lose a contract to a telco at least we’ve seen a substantial reduction in cost here.”

By Mike Roy