Aug. 29, 2014
By Chris Simon
A broadband Internet corridor is necessary for attracting the businesses of the future, according to several Newmarket councillors.
Council is expected to take a significant step toward the establishment of a gigabit corridor pilot project during a meeting early next month. Under the plan, staff would be tasked with seeking requests for proposals from Internet service providers, with the goal of constructing a broadband corridor along Main Street, from Water Street to Davis Drive; Davis, from Main to Leslie Street and Leslie, to the Harry Walker Parkway area.
“This is about getting more information so we can make an educated decision,” Councillor Chris Emanuel said. “We’ve historically had a strong manufacturing base and that’s great, but the jobs of the future will be largely dependent on a network of broadband infrastructure. It gives us that edge.”
Town sites could also be used for broadband equipment installations, economic development officer Chris Kallio said.
“Newmarket is serviced by dozens of Internet service providers with the ability to purchase bandwidth at wholesale rates, if they do not own their own fibre networks,” he said. “By offering to partner and potentially leveraging town-owned assets for infrastructure installation...the town anticipates strong interest from the private sector.”
The exact price tag has yet to be determined, since the town will seek partnerships with existing service providers. If those relationships cannot be established, a municipally funded program could cost the town between $290,000 and $1.1 million.
However, the project could attract about 17 businesses and 205 direct jobs to the corridor. An additional 126 indirect jobs may also be generated, town economic development advisory committee chairperson Jim Gragtmans said.
“Economic development is changing and we’re constantly needing to reassess where we’re going as a community, in order to create well- paying jobs,” he said. “There are several examples across the world where communities have built high-speed Internet (capabilities). They’re doing it in an effort to compete and differentiate themselves for the future. This is a step along the road. It’s increasingly a prerequisite for any community’s viability.”
Councillor Maddie Di Muccio expressed concern about the potential cost of the project.
“It will require some investment from taxpayers,” she said. “It’s very risky.”
Broadband will provide stability and growth potential for existing businesses, while ensuring Newmarket maintains a competitive advantage over other local municipalities, Regional Councillor John Taylor said.
“This is a direction virtually every community will go in eventually,” he said. “It’s not just a chance to keep up, but to lead. It gives you a competitive advantage.”
A public engagement campaign would also likely begin in early 2015.