By Kalinowski, Tim on January 21, 2020.
The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce stopped short of endorsing the City of Lethbridge’s entry into the under-served digital market for business owners in the community at Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting, but didn’t stop too far short of it.
Currently, said Chamber of Commerce executive officer Cyndi Vos, business owners do not feel they are well-served by their internet providers, and too often it comes down to what part of the city you are located in.
“(There is a challenge) in having to decide where to locate in Lethbridge, and not being able to lease or buy in certain areas of town. That’s a restriction on where they can do business and how they can do business,” explained Vos. “So they are having to go into different areas just so they can turn their computers on. So is there some challenges from an economic development in placement? Absolutely. Unless you are on the corridor where there is the magic (fibre optics) line, there’s challenges as to what you can do and how you can do it.”
To back up this perception, Vos and her colleagues presented survey results regarding Chamber of Commerce members’ feelings about local levels of internet connectivity for council’s consideration, showing only about 50 per cent of businesses are satisfied with their internet connection at work.
Council has been considering something along the lines of the Olds or Waterton models, where the City becomes the main provider and purveyor of internet service for areas of the community currently under the 50 Mbps average speed recommended by the CRTC to close the digital divide among all citizens. According to the Chamber report, only 54 per cent of the 64 businesses surveyed met or exceeded that minimum standard here in Lethbridge.
An official report on the feasibility of setting up such a public internet service is due out in May for council’s consideration, but the chamber felt its members had a contribution to make to the City’s digital infrastructure conversation before that by conducting this member survey, said Vos.
“The only way we are going to put business forward, and have it competitive to the rest of the world, is if we can meet the world standard,” Vos said. “We are at a disadvantage if we can’t use some of those new technologies that are out there to advance us in our business, and in connecting with outside of our city.”
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