OLDS — Former Olds Fibre Ltd. (OFL) director Joe Gustafson says turning O-NET into a utility could be a great idea for the town.
But he wonders if council would have the “fortitude” to do that because it would mean all residents – whether they subscribe to O-NET or not – would be paying for it through taxes.
That question had been posed earlier to the town by The Albertan.
“There are no plans to bring the operations or assets of Olds Fibre Ltd. and O-NET under direct town operation,” an email from town officials said.
Town officials announced they had asked BDO Canada to act as a receiver and to consolidate the assets of Olds Institute and other entities under its wing such as Mountain View Power, and OFL which has overseen O-NET, the community-owned company that provides internet, phone and TV services.
The plan is to then turn the whole thing into a municipally-owned corporation.
Earlier, the town obtained loans totalling $14 million to enable a fibre optic cable network to be created, connecting consumers to O-NET. A guaranteed line of credit up to $4 million was also made available.
Making the OI bundle into a utility might be a way to deal with those loans and line of credit.
During an interview, Gustafson said turning the telecommunications company as a utility, would be the first such move in Canada, to his knowledge.
"I guess the disadvantage – and maybe the advantage in the same statement – is that everybody in the community pays for it," he said.
“It’s like an arena – whether you skate or not, you pay for the arena. Whether you swim or not, you pay for the pool. Whether you like the parks or not, you pay for the grass-cutting.
"Everybody has a phone, everybody has a TV, so everybody has a connection of some sort.
“So if everybody in the town became a customer of O-NET, the income would rise exponentially and the cost of running the network could be reduced – not the physical cost of running it, but the subscription cost to the network, could supposedly be reduced significantly.
“So not only could we have the first utility, we could also probably have the least expensive broadband services in the country,” he added.
“So it’s an interesting question. Does council have the nerve or the fortitude to move forward with something like that? I personally hope so, because I think it would have absolutely huge benefits for the town.
“So if there’s one silver lining that could be in all of this is that maybe they’ll actually have to do that.”