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Council approves Bragg Creek broadband study

After a decision by Rocky View County council, the County will suspend the first phase of its Internet Servicing Strategy and instead fund a more in-depth study by Bragg Creek Connect on how to bring internet servicing to all of RVC. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Rocky View County (RVC) council chose to discontinue the first phase of the County’s Internet Servicing Strategy at a regular meeting April 30, electing instead to fund a more in-depth project proposed by Bragg Creek Connect.

According to Cole Nelson, RVC's manager of Corporate Business Development, the committee requested $165,000 to undertake a community broadband study for the entire county.

“Administration has confirmed that approval of a Community and Regional Economic Support grant could offset up to 50 per cent, or $82,000, of the project costs,” he said.

The Bragg Creek Connect Committee was established in early 2018, according to Nelson, to address the community’s lack of Internet servicing. He noted council approved an expenditure of $60,000 for phase one of the Internet Servicing Strategy at a regular meeting Feb. 26, but Bragg Creek Connect’s project exceeds the expected outcome of RVC's approved strategy.

According to Nelson, RVC’s original project would have resulted in a high-level assessment of available technologies, what Internet service providers are doing in different areas of the county and what policy tools are available to the County. The newly-approved proposal will result in a deeper dive with shovel-ready reports, according to Nelson.

“Administration stresses this new project and the project earlier approved by council…are inherently related,” he said. “This new opportunity can be expected to exceed the outcomes of the previous, and will also require more time and more funds to complete. For these reasons, administration would advise that the projects not be run concurrently.”

Moving forward with both, he added, would produce redundancies.

Staff confirmed the County would be eligible to apply for a Community and Regional Economic Support (CARES) grant, which would offset 50 per cent – equating to $82,000 – of the project costs, according to Nelson. Discontinuing the already-approved project would allow RVC to reallocate approximately $54,000 to the new project – Nelson estimated $6,000 of the approved funds for the Internet Servicing Strategy has already been spent – with the remaining $28,500 coming from the tax stabilization fund.

RVC’s funding was contingent on receiving the CARES grant, he added.

Nelson said the project would proceed using a gated approach, where updates are provided to council throughout the process before new steps are undertaken. He said he felt that approach would keep council abreast of the project without adding significant delays.

The pivot to a new project did raise concerns for some councillors. Coun. Samanntha Wright, whose notice of motion initiated RVC’s original project, worried the change would set the County back if the CARES grant was ultimately not approved. Wright, along with Coun. Crystal Kissel, also felt the project should not be awarded to the Bragg Creek Connect committee without going through a bidding process, first.

“If the Bragg Creek Community Broadband Study project then ends up with it, that’s great, but I think we have to follow process," Kissel said. "And this is a large sum of money.”

RVC’s Chief Administrative Officer Al Hoggan indicated there are provisions in RVC’s procurement policy for the County to seek sole-sourcing of goods and services in some instances, and Nelson said the original project used sole-sourcing.

Council ended up voting 6-3 to discontinue its original project and reallocate the funding, with Couns. Wright, Kissel and Kevin Hanson opposed.

“We have an opportunity to get something that’s a lot more useful to our residents in the long run,” said Coun. Kim McKylor, but added council would need to ensure the eventual outcomes were not biased toward Bragg Creek, but favoured the entire County.


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