By Chad Ingram
Algonquin Highlands council has lentits support to a high-speed Internet expansion deal betweenHaliburton County and Bell and the township will reimburse the countyfor service fees for Algonquin Highlands buildings that will benefitfrom the project.
During a Jan. 27 Haliburton Countycouncil meeting council agreed to contribute $360000 to a deal withBell to expand the company's fibre network in the county. Between thefibre expansion and digital subscriber lines (DSL) a total of 24public buildings will gain or get improved access to high-speedbroadband Internet.
In Algonquin Highlands facilitiesinclude the township office on North Shore Road fire halls inStanhope Dorset and Oxtongue Lake the recreationcentre/library/township office in Dorset the Stanhope AirportDorset OPP station and Stanhope and Dorset roads garages.
Notably nearly $100000 of thecounty's $360000 investment will go toward connecting fibre-opticcable to the Dorset roads garage and fire department in OxtongueLake where the public wireless Internet hot spot is currently veryunreliable.
“Oxtongue Lake is supposed to be ahot spot but I think it's more of a lukewarm spot” said ReeveCarol Moffatt who is also county warden for 2016 during a Feb. 4Algonquin Highlands council meeting.
“A lot of public hot spots in 2015experienced outages due to capacity” said county IT manager MikeMarch who was in council chambers to explain the project. “Ourhot spots are very popular and ratepayers depend on them.”
Not only should the project improveInternet access for residents at public wireless hot spots it willimprove working conditions for municipal employees who have becomeaccustomed to losing Internet access at work.
Moffatt said the public likely didn'trealize what a common occurrence this is.
“There are lots of times you'retalking to staff and they say 'the Internet's down the Internet'sdown'” she said adding this was an inefficient way for amunicipal government to operate.
The county is signing the agreementwith Bell and the lower tiers will then reimburse the county fortheir share of service fees.
In Algonquin Highlands that will totalabout $13000 a year.
Bell which Moffatt has noted is makinga significant financial investment in the capital costs of theproject has offered Haliburton County a rate of $475 a month forthe fees on its facilities about half of what the municipality hasbeen paying with Rogers.
Rogers has announced it will beshutting down its wireless network in the county by the end of May.
The request for proposals was donethrough the Eastern Ontario Regional Network which was seeking thebest deal for the 13 upper-tier municipalities that comprise theEastern Ontario Warden's Caucus.
The county contributed $500000 to the $170-million EORN broadbandproject that was completed in 2014. That project attempted to providehigh-speed Internet to 95 per cent of homes and businesses in thearea although many residents in the county are still without access.Many residents
have also expressed discontentment with the qualityof the satellite Internet service meant to fill the gap areas.
Moffatt has said EORN is working on a ruralwireless gap analysis.