Bell Canada recently announced that they will be investing $50 million to bring fibre optic cable to 20,000 homes in Sarnia. This investment is part of Bell’s multibillion-dollar fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) project to keep up with consumer demands for newer, faster, and better Internet service.
The Good News
Fibre optics is the fastest and most reliable form of Internet connection on the market today. It is the only solution that is scalable to not only meet today’s needs, but to also meet infinitely increasing future demands. Bell’s fibre-optic network project will benefit both Sarnia’s residents and businesses, in designated service areas, who will be able to take advantage of the increased reliability and speed of fibre Internet. According to the maps provided by Bell, the initial rollout of Fibe deployment will be very comprehensive in the urban area of Sarnia. This investment will also make it easier, faster, and cheaper for Bell to further expand their fibre footprint to adjacent, underserved areas of Sarnia in the future.
The Not-So-Good News
While any investment in fibre optic broadband networks is a good investment, the Fibe deployment as shown on the map provided by Bell, will not serve the rural areas of Sarnia in the initial rollout. This exclusion represents over 50% of the geographic boundary of Sarnia.
The Opportunity – A
SWIFT creates incentives for service providers to build integrated networks. In May 2017, SWIFT launched a two-stage Request for Pre-Qualification. Through this process, 28 service providers, including Bell, were pre-qualified. If Bell elects to participate in SWIFT’s upcoming procurement process, and is the successful bidder for Sarnia, they will have the opportunity to further expand their coverage footprint to the rural areas of Sarnia with up to two-thirds subsidy from SWIFT. The infrastructure built to support Fibe could then be connected to SWIFT’s open-access network, fostering a more dynamic telecommunications market in Sarnia. For example, Bluewater Networks, the fibre optic network service provider which is owned by the City of Sarnia, will have access to the wholesale services they need to continue offering services to the community at reasonable prices.
The Opportunity – B
SWIFT will continue to leverage the existing fibre footprint, fill in the infrastructure gaps, and subsidize telecom service providers until everyone in southwestern Ontario, Caledon and the Niagara Region is connected by fibre optics. If Bell elects not to participate in SWIFT’s upcoming procurement process, the increasing digital divide between Sarnia’s urban and rural communities will still be subsidized by SWIFT through an alternative service provider.
Widespread fibre diffusion is the key to enabling competitiveness in the digital economy. SWIFT is a collective broadband initiative that is building an affordable, open-access, ultra-high-speed fibre-optic regional broadband network for everyone in Southwestern Ontario, Caledon and the Niagara Region. By developing a long-term infrastructure plan, SWIFT is helping more than 3.5 million Ontarians, across 350 communities, connect and keep pace in a changing digital world. By building a high speed, fibre optic Internet infrastructure, SWIFT will ensure that every member community benefits from a faster, more reliable, more affordable, and completely future-proofed Internet infrastructure. By working together, we can accelerate fibre diffusion to both our rural and urban communities, connecting everyone sooner.