Company seeks $100K from Wellesley to expand fibre optic network

Mornington Communications planning a $2.1-million project that would boost service in Linwood, Crosshill, Hawkesville and Bamberg

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Kicking in $100,000 would help fast-track the expansion of high-speed internet service in Wellesley Township’s smaller communities, says a company looking for support from council

Mornington Communications, which currently provides its fibre internet service to homes in Wellesley village, recently pitched the idea to councillors, touting the benefits of a new fibre optic internet connection in the area.

If approved, the $100,000 contribution would go towards a $2.1-million project to expand fibre optics services to the village centres of Linwood, Crosshill, Hawkesville and Bamberg, covering an estimated 500 homes and businesses in the township.

“The proposal is that we bring fibre to Linwood, Hawkesville, Crosshill and Bamberg,” Ken Naylor, general manager for Mornington Communications, told councillors September 25.

Of the $100,000 contribution being requested from the township, $75,000 would be required to build a fibre optic network for the village centres of Linwood, Hawkesville, Crosshill. The village of Bamberg would also be included in the network if the township agreed to contribute the remaining $25,000.

The communities were underserviced, suggested Naylor, with below standard levels of internet speeds.

“We received a lot of inquiries from residents in the township that wanted better internet service,” Naylor explained in a later interview. “The project itself is about $2.1 million. So with the township contributing up to $100,000, it’s enough to make it so the business case is justifiable.”

According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), a government regulating agency, the preferred minimum internet speeds for all Canadians is at least 50 Mbps for downloading and 10 Mbps for uploads. The CRTC notes that while most Canadians meet this criteria for internet speeds, many rural and remote areas in the country do not.

Using measurement tools from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), a not-for-profit that manages the “.ca” internet domain,  Naylor notes that the speeds in the Wellesley Township communities fell well below the recommended minimums.

“In your area, you’re underserved is what it comes down to. The average speed in these communities is some 2 to 5 Mbps,” said Naylor, noting that Linwood fared slightly better than the other three villages. “So compared to be the 50 Mbps connection that is considered to be the minimum standard, it’s a far cry off that.”

The fibre optics would offer internet speeds of up to 1 Gbps, and include television, home and security monitoring features. Mornington would add new fibre optics lines to the connect the four communities to their larger network, and offer free installations for eligible homes and businesses to the network – allowing property owners the option purchase Mornington’s internet service at a later date.

Crucially though, the fibre optic cables would not cover homes and businesses in the rural parts outside the village limits of Linwood, Hawkesville, Crosshill and Bamberg. Only rural homes and businesses along the pathway of the proposed fibre optic line would be connected to the network.

Currently, the proposal is for the fibre optic line to be laid along Ament Line. From west to east, the fibre optic cables would cut through the village of Linwood, and then branch off at the intersection of Ament Line and Hutchinson Road, and run along both roads to service Hawkesville and Crosshill, respectively.

The optional Bamberg network would separately be connected to existing infrastructure within Wellesley village, and travel east along Gerber Road, and then north along Moser Young Road to Bamberg.

Township councillors, while supportive of Mornington’s overall goal, questioned how the proposal would interact with the Region of Waterloo’s existing commitment to supply the townships with fibre optic internet.

The Region has already committed to working with the SouthWestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) network, a not-for-profit leveraging public and private funding for the creation of open-access fibre networks for rural and remote communities across the province.

If the township waited for SWIFT, it would likely get fibre optic internet without having to spend any additional funds. The SWIFT fibre network would also be open-access, allowing multiple internet service providers the ability to offer their internet services on the same network. Mornington Communications, by contrast, would have a much tighter monopoly on their fibre optic infrastructure, limiting Wellesley Township resident’s options.

Naylor, however, noted that the SWIFT initiative could take years to come to fruition, whereas Mornington could begin construction in short order.

The presentation to council was just a preliminary discussion, and no decisions were made. Wellesley Township staff will review the company’s request in greater detail and return to council with a recommendation report at a later date.

Mornington has said that they are looking to have homes in Linwood, Hawkesville and Crosshill connected by 2019, and Bamberg in 2020.