Vulcan County supporting internet company's application for federal grant funding – Nanton News


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Vulcan County is supporting Xplornet in its application to the Universal Broadband Fund.

Xplornet’s Graham Fleet gave a presentation to Vulcan County council Jan. 27 and asked for a letter of support for its application to the $1.75 billion fund, which will support high-speed internet projects to rural and remote communities across the country.

Xplornet delivers internet to customers in rural Canada using fiber-optic cable, fixed wireless towers and satellite. The company’s network serves more than 430,000 rural homes across the country, he said.

“We are going where the national providers are not,” said Fleet.

Fleet said the company is trying to keep up with demand, and the equipment installed since 2019 is 5G ready.

Xplornet’s purchase of CCI Wireless last October is a “stepping stone” to improve the company’s internet service in western Canada, he said.

“They will continue to be operating our call centre, which is based in Calgary, and continuing to keep the staffing levels on board, and ensuring that basically that the progress of CCI Wireless in Alberta continues along and is a stepping stone for additional growth in the province,” he said.

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Xplornet itself was purchased by a private equity firm in June 2020 and is “very well financed” now, said Fleet.

“Xplornet is getting ready to deliver 5G wireless broadband to the entire country,” said Fleet. “We’ve been made the commitment of investing our own capital in excess of $500 million to improve service in rural Canada.”

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Satellite is still going to end up being the preferred method of internet delivery, but it is “oversubscribed,” he said.

“There is a congestion on the network, but I believe we will going through an optimization of our service delivery mechanism to our customer base over the next few years and ensuring that where possible we move people from satellite on to fixed wireless or potentially fiber to the home as the service delivery method,” he said.

“The fine-tuning basically is going to be that that the majority of the towers in our network have fiber at the base of them and our able to offload the data that is coming in wirelessly to a stable fiber network.”

He said population densities of “probably over 10 to 15 people per kilometre” would be enough to justify fiber to the home.

“The business case is all predicated on the density of housing in a particular area,” he said.

The Canadian government is accepting applications for its $1.75-billion Universal Broadband Fund for rural broadband projects, Fleet informed council.

According to the government’s website, the Universal Broadband Fund has been designed to fund broadband infrastructure projects that will bring high-speed Internet at 50/10 Megabits per second (Mbps) to rural and remote communities.

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“Xplornet has created a large, provincewide design that basically entails building an additional significant portion of backbone fiber,” said Fleet, adding that it would be looking to install fiber to the home in more dense areas of rural municipalities and “even individual farms along the way as long as they follow the routing that the fiber is being proposed.”

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The company is currently in talks with the Alberta government, he said.

“Certainly we will have a letter of support from the provincial government,” said Fleet, adding Xplornet’s application calls for a total investment of $200 million in infrastructure in Alberta.

Fleet’s presentation included the proposed buildout plan within Vulcan County, but that plan was discussed with council during a closed portion of the discussion. Fleet asked council to move that discussion in-camera because he said there’s some “competitor sensitive information” he planned to show council.

Reeve Jason Schneider said councillors have all experienced a “less than stellar” internet connection.

“So it’s nice to see this going forward and for your time and your presentation,” he told Fleet.

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