by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent
The Town of Morinville may be getting a high-tech upgrade to its network infrastructure following a presentation to council from Axia, an Albertan rural Internet service provider. The company develops fibre infrastructure in small communities across the province. Fibre is a relatively new technology that transmits data though light, rather than using electricity through coper wire, as phone, internet, and television has been commonly transmitted for decades. In general, fibre is much faster than copper lines, and more reliable in speed and service.
Axia shared its potential plans to operate in Morinville with Council at their monthly Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting where a representative from the company, Jason O’Connor, was on hand to offer a quick presentation and answer a few questions from Council.
O’Connor noted that Axia would start taking the next steps to laying fibre lines in Morinville after at least 30 per cent of Morinville residents sign on to a survey saying that if the ISP came to town, they would be interested in purchasing the service. O’Connor said that evening that signing that survey infers no obligation to the resident to switch if they change their mind once the service goes live. As an added incentive, residents who sign onto the survey would get their installation fees waived for getting fibre installed to their homes (approximately a $200 value, according to O’Connor) if they do end up signing on.
The business case for fibre is more jobs and economic growth here in town, according to O’Connor. He noted, not only does faster internet help residents stream Netflix with fewer hiccups, but it also enables businesses like call or data centres to set up shop in rural Alberta. O’Connor cited a statistic from the Alberta town of Vulcan who signed on with Axia and saw a 14 per cent increase in active business licenses registered with the town, compared to a 2 per cent decrease in the year before the town got fibre internet.
Currently, Axia offers residential internet speeds of 100Mbps upload and download for residents, and 1Gbps upload and download for businesses. O’Connor asked Council for their support “in any way they felt comfortable” to inform citizens about the survey and get them engaged with Axia’s initiative in invest millions of dollars in laying fibre lines in Morinville.
Council had some concerns regarding Axia’s request, with Mayor Holmes asking multiple pointed questions about the long-term reliability of Axia as a service provider. Notably, Holmes wondered if residents may be locked into contracts with the company when Axia’s contract with the provincially managed SuperNet, a highspeed provincial fibre network that allows Axia access to their high speeds, comes up in 2018.
Councillor Dafoe also commented that he was concerned about the Town interceding to support one private company acquire more customers than another, saying that that may not be fair to other providers like Telus or Shaw.
O’Connor responded saying that this initiative from Axia would create millions of dollars of free new investment into the town, and that other ISPs (including Shaw or Telus) could use Axia’s fibre lines in the future saying they will be “completely open”.
No decisions were or could be made by Council at Committee of the Whole, though this item may come forward to Council again at a regular meeting of council.