By Trevor Busch
Regional Internet provider Telus, working in partnership with the Town of Taber, is about to put the community on the fast track to a bright future through the expansion of their fibre optic network.
Selected as part of a Telus pilot project for 2015, Taber will be the only rural community in southern Alberta to become part of the corporation’s fibre optics network. Once complete, over 90 per cent of Taber homes and businesses will be eligible for the upgrade, giving residents access to the fastest Internet speeds Telus offers (currently as high as 100 Mbps).
“Telus is very excited to be bringing fibre to the residents and businesses of Taber,” said Chris Gerritsen, a Telus spokesperson, during a teleconference last week. “There’s prep work that’s being started, and then construction will start when the ground thaws, and we hope to be complete before the ground freezes up again.”
The Telus Fibre Optic Network is a new network built from flexible, transparent fibres of glass that are slightly thicker than human hair. The fibres transmit data as particles of light, allowing large volumes of information to be sent to your home or business at close to the speed of light.
“This will bring fibre directly into the home or business, and it’s really the most advanced communications infrastructure available in the world today,” said Gerritsen. “Because of the fibre optics, businesses will be able to get new plans which offer speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, which is up to 20 times faster than the top speed that they can get today. It’s really incredible.”
If connected, residents and businesses will have access to Internet at maximum speeds, Telus’ Optik TV offerings, and the network will enable faster uploads, file sharing and online collaboration. Students will enjoy faster Internet for access to online classes, tutorials and research.
Door-to-door representatives will visit every premises in a given neighbourhood to request permission to have a fibre optic network connected directly to homes or businesses.
During the fibre-build program, the fibre connection will be completed at no charge and with no obligation for residents to purchase services.
“We will have our folks going around knocking on doors to speak with homeowners and business owners about running new fibre optic to their premises,” said Gerritsen. “There’s no cost to customers, or commitment required to bring fibre optic to the home.”
In the future, the fibre optic network can enable health-care providers to innovate in how they provide services to the community. With its speed, the network can empower specialists to monitor conditions in real time, 24/7 while patients are at home.
There will be no cost for installation while while Telus employees are in the community building the network.
“It’s really a massive undertaking, with the work taking place over a number of months. As we light up the neighbourhoods, we will have our team going around inviting those individuals to sign up for Telus services if they wish,” said Gerritsen.
Faster Internet delivers business efficiencies including quick upload speeds, file sharing, online collaboration and Cloud capabilities. Businesses will be able to operate locally and compete globally regardless of their size and location.
“It’s very attractive to have fibre optic cable throughout 90 per cent (of the community),” said Gerritsen. “It’s world-class technology — it will not only enhance services at home, but will provide a huge bandwidth and speed boost to local businesses, which really opens up a world of innovation and global markets. Those with that entreprenuerial spirit can live and work in Taber, but compete on the global stage. Fibre optics and the technologies that it can bring will provide enhancement in health care, education.”
Telus representatives will request permission from each home and business in the community before construction commences. The infrastructure will follow the same connection path as your existing cable, with connections made either below ground or aerially via poles. If your connection is on a pole to the house, you will see minimal or no impact to your property.
“There’s lots of aerial service in Taber, because of our alleys and laneways,” said planning director Cory Armfelt. “We’ll work with Fortis to get access to those, to drape wire off the Fortis poles. It’s just luck as to how Taber was built, there’s lots of alleys and laneways in which they can gain access to Fortis poles.”
If your connection is below ground, there will be more work required. Efforts will be made to limit disruptions and minimize the impact on homes and daily routines. Work required on a public right of way at the border of a property would be completed and the right of way restored in an expeditious fashion. The least intrusive path from the street to a property will be determined, and specialized equipment will be used when work is deemed necessary and precautions taken to ensure minimal impact. The area will be restored after the work is finished and may include sod and/or seeding. Telus will perform an initial watering.
“Taber has a progressive and supportive leadership, and so we want to work with Taber,” said Gerritsen. “We’re excited to work with the municipality. It is a process, recognizing of course that Taber has a great blend of residential and business properties, and its population size is optimum for a project of this nature.”
Although reluctant to be pinned down to any specific figures, Gerritsen did say the infrastructure investment being made in the community by the communications giant will be in the multiple millions over the course of 2015.
“It will be millions, that’s what I can tell you right now. Millions of dollars of investment. We have a number of pilot projects in the works. As I mentioned before, in choosing Taber there was a number of factors — the strong and loyal customer base that we have there, and the progressive and supportive leadership of Taber.”
Telus assured current customers that at the present time, there are no plans to require customers to switch to the new network, and the existing copper network will continue to function.
During the initial stages of negotiation between Telus and the Town of Taber, officials had been subject to a non-disclosure agreement that prevented details of the initiative from being made public. Since that agreement has now been lifted, Mayor Henk De Vlieger admitted it has him breathing a sigh of relief.
“For the last couple of months I’ve had people asking me why we don’t have high speed Internet yet, and I’ve had to bite my tongue. I’m glad that we can start screaming it from the roof tops, and I hope that we can use this for a couple of years as an advantage to come and live in Taber.”
Telus has created a unique website for the community where residents can learn more about the Telus Fibre Optic Network, get updates on when the fibre optic network will be available in their neighbourhood, and sign up to receive updates and more information. Visit telus.com/taber.
Telus executives and town officials will be in town council chambers at the Administration Building for an official announcement of the initiative at 1 p.m. on March 13.