By Tim Kalinowski
Redcliff town council voted to make a motion of support for the Palliser Economic Partnership’s (PEP) GigaBit Project to bring fibre optics and high speed internet to smaller communities and outlying areas in Cypress County, and beyond, at last Monday’s meeting. The motion did not pass without opposition, however.
Coun. Dwight Kilpatrick was skeptical of the benefits of such an initiative to Redcliff which already has the government subsidized Supernet through the Redcliff Library.
“There is a whole paragraph in here (in this request for support from PEP) about the vastness of the region and the sparseness of the population… Whenever you have a system where you are running a lot of utility to service a few people, it doesn’t pay for itself… Honestly, somebody would have to tell me this is a great deal. And if it was a great deal why hasn’t private enterprise picked up on it?”
Even though the motion of support included encouraging PEP to apply for grant money from the provincial government to conduct a feasibility study, and did not go any further, Kilpatrick, who is also chair of the Shortgrass Library System’s Board of Trustees, foresaw a huge dollar figure attached in the long-run for local municipalities like Redcliff.
“We looked into the price of what Supernet would cost to put into the Irvine Library and that was $35,000. That is just one service point. I realize what fibre optics can do, and how many different people can be communicating on that strand of glass. It’s amazing. It is fast. It can take a big, big load (of communications). But it comes with big, big price,” said Kilpatrick.
Coun. Chere Brown reminded Kilpatrick that all council was agreeing to at this point was a letter of support for a feasibility study.
“I think it is a good thing to do a letter of support for at the very least,” said Brown.
Mayor Ernie Reimer, on the other hand, disagreed with Kilpatrick on the possible long-term benefits to Redcliff. He felt bringing more fibre optics to the community would pay dividends for local businesses and to the Town itself on the service end of things.
“The whole area is getting on board with (the PEP initiative) and are really excited about it,” said Reimer. “I think this could also (potentially) make money for the community. You put it into the ground and people have to pay for it: Users, households, businesses. It could be another form of income for the Town.”
Coun. Larry Leipert felt the potential benefits to the community were obvious and the motion of support should definitely be made.
“Why wouldn’t we want this?” asked Leipert.