The hope that Grey County would install fibre optic infrastructure during major road construction projects has run into the complex reality of the difficulties of connecting rural areas to broadband services.
Grey County Deputy CAO Randy Scherzer delivered a report about fibre optic installations during road projects at county council’s committee of the whole meeting on April 28. The report was generated after The Blue Mountains council passed a resolution on April 12 asking the county for a status update on the possibility of fibre or related infrastructure being installed during the reconstruction of County Roads 2 and 13.
In the resolution, The Blue Mountains council noted that Section 8.9.4 (3) of the Grey County Official Plan states: “When reconstructing County roads or the CP Rail Trail, the county will consider installing fibre or conduit for future fibre to connect with the overall fibre network. Local municipalities are also encouraged to install fibre or conduit when reconstructing roads. The county, in consultation with local municipalities, telecommunication providers, and SWIFT, will develop a fibre/conduit specification for the installation of fibre and conduit. An ownership model will also be developed in consultation with SWIFT.”
Scherzer explained to council that the best place to put fibre infrastructure is at the edge of the right away as close to the property line as possible. He said for many road projects there is no excavation in the right aways.
“Unfortunately it’s not as easy as putting a pipe in the ground in the hope a telecommunications provider will use it in the future,” said Scherzer.
Schezer added that individual telecommunications providers have their own preferences and standards for fibre infrastructure and there is no agreed industry standard. If the county randomly picked a specific fibre technology to install it could be seen as an advantage for some service providers over others. Scherzer said this reality has proven to be a challenge across the province.
“No other municipality has established a consistent approach,” he said.
Soever suggested if the county is not able to follow the fibre optic guideline in the Official Plan, then that section should be changed.
“The Official Plan language is prescriptive. Should we not amend the Official Plan if we’re not doing that anymore?” he asked.
Scherzer said county staff would re-examine that wording in the Official Plan.
Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca