Free broadband hookup sparks interest in Trail

City of Trail and LCIC are offering free fibre optic internet hookups to eligible businesses.

By now most people will have heard about it, although they may not fully understand it, and some, depending on where they work, will have actually experienced it.

Now, the majority of the businesses in the downtown core of Trail will have the opportunity to have that mysterious next step in Internet technology, broadband, installed for free until March 31.

The Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC), along with the City of Trail and the Trail Broadband Committee, are offering business grade fibre optic connection to eligible businesses in the city centre and will spend the next 10 days canvassing businesses and building owners to generate awareness, provide more information on the service, and make inquiries about their potential needs.

“We’re really excited to be working to bring free connections to the businesses and buildings in Trail,” said Terry Van Horn. “The hookup will be free until the end of March, then until July 31 the cost will increase to $750, and after Dec. 31 will go up to the regular connection fee of $1,500.”

For those who are still somewhat mystified by all the chatter about broadband, it is, basically, just a much faster Internet connection, similar to what many will have had installed in their homes and businesses in the past.

The main differences between the old and the new are that the materials and equipment used to deliver the service have generally changed and it really is faster.

Until now, the majority of Internet connections have been over standard copper wire, either through existing phone lines or coaxial cable that was originally run for cable television.

Broadband is primarily run through fibre optic cable made of high-quality glass or plastic which isn’t affected by electromagnetic interference and carries signals much further, and faster, without losing strength.

One example that might help understand why broadband would be desirable is by comparing it to water.

Think of a 45 gallon barrel of water, with the water in the barrel representing your Internet signal.

If you put a one inch round pipe in the bottom of the barrel it would take a long time to drain the barrel. If you used a four inch round pipe the barrel would drain in hardly any time at all.

The old internet connection is like the one inch pipe and broadband is like the four inch pipe.

“This is a big thing, for any size of business,” said Ron Perepolkin, community economic development coordinator at Community Futures in Trail. “The fast upload speed really makes a difference, as well as the download. It allows for new technologies that can be used for transactions, monitoring sales or inventory. For instance a restaurant; the waiter could take an order on an iPad or tablet and it would show up instantly on a screen in the kitchen, without having to run back with it written on a slip of paper. When it came time to pay, the waiter could swipe the credit card or debit card with the iPad’s card reader and the customer doesn’t have to go up to a till. It can really speed things up.”

The obvious benefactors of broadband are engineering and utility companies that need to transmit very large data files over the internet or any organization that needs to backup their computer network data files. The faster speeds would allow them to complete these transfers much more quickly and securely.

It would also be a benefit for any business or organization that does a lot of communication, voice or video conferencing. A business with branches of stores in another location could have real time communication over the internet without having to worry about long distance phone calls or jerky video calls that freeze or fail part way through.

Unfortunately, there are a few sections of the downtown that are currently unable to access the broadband network, due to permit difficulties with the communications poles where the cable is run or due to engineering complications making connection too costly at this time but Perepolkin said that the issues are being worked on and will hopefully be resolved.

The monthly cost of the service is still yet to be determined. Once the LCIC has completed their canvassing of downtown businesses and have a firm idea of the number of customers signed up for the service the hunt will begin for an internet service provider.

“We’re going to send out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to service providers and ask them to bid for providing the internet access for the network,” said Van Horn. “With the majority of the businesses downtown seeking the service as a group, we’re hoping to be able to get a better deal on the monthly fee but we’re not anticipating a huge increase. It should be similar to the current internet service but it will ultimately depend on the level of service customers are interested in.”

Around 20 to 30 businesses have already signed up for the new service, according to Van Horn, with the hopes for the majority of the downtown to be signed up by March.

“I think that the uptake is going to be very positive,” said Norm Casler, executive director of the Trail Chamber of Commerce. “It may be that the particular business or building owner may not see a need for it immediately but for the future, when they may want to upgrade or want to sell the building, it will be a benefit. And it’s free right now, no commitment required to get the connection. I think people will jump in.”

Anyone interested in more information about the broadband initiative can find it, where else? On the internet at www.trailbroadband.ca.

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