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Future of O-NET, Olds Fibre unclear following AGM

Chairman's report says OI looking forward to Mountain View Power helping to fund OI activities in the future
MVT O-NET new location-1
It's not clear what the future of O-NET, the community-owned firm that provides high-speed internet as well as phone and TV service, will be in the future. Doug Collie/MVP Staff

OLDS — In the future, the Olds Institute for Community and Regional Development (OI) will be relying on Mountain View Power to help finance its activities, its chair Brett Muzychka says.

“The OI board is “looking forward to positioning the organization back to a more grassroots structure and using the Mountain View Power for the future benefit of the citizens of Olds,” said the concluding paragraph of his report, tabled during the May 11, 2021 annual general meeting of OI.

That last paragraph did not make any mention of O-NET and Olds Fibre Ltd. contributing toward the funding of those activities in the future, despite the fact that OI is the umbrella organization for both of those entities, along with Mountain View Power.

Olds Fibre Ltd. is a for-profit business that owns O-NET and O-NET is a community-owned firm that provides high-speed internet as well as phone and TV service.

During an interview, Muzychka was asked flat out “what is the future of O-NET? Will it remain under the umbrella of Olds Institute and/or Olds Fibre Ltd.?”

Muzychka said that’s one of those questions that “I’ve got to say I can’t say because I don’t know exactly what the future is going to hold.”

He indicated he’s awaiting a news release on that from the Town of Olds. A few weeks ago, mayor Mike Muzychka said issue of that release was anticipated shortly.

“What my vision is is that once everything is done on that side, Olds Institute will live on, with the main source of funds that we can spend in the community will be Mountain View Power,” Brett Muzychka added.

“That’s why a lot of the talk and stuff was about the future is because that’s kind of how we envision things will look.”

OI is a non-profit entity founded in 2001 by the Town of Olds along with Olds College, Olds & District Chamber of Commerce and Olds Regional Exhibition.

It’s tasked with encouraging the development of Olds as an innovative and entrepreneurial community and improving quality of life for its residents with the help of volunteers.

On May 22 last year, town council called on OI to repay a $14 million loan as part of a larger call for that entity’s loan refinancing to be “reorganized” and "additional process thereafter." 

Several years ago, the town had arranged to obtain loans totalling $14 million to help to finance installation of fibre optic lines to homes and businesses throughout Olds to connect customers to O-NET.

In his report, Muzychka wrote that “even though these loans were not in default, it had put some extreme pressure on the Olds Institute, Olds Connected Community Network ·OCCN) and Olds Fibre Ltd. To produce a solution to have these loans repaid.”  

Muzychka’s chairman’s report also said that in January, an advisory committee established to figure out a way to pay back those loans and look into the future of OI had narrowed options down to “one group” which is conducting a due diligence process, expected to wrap up in the next five to six weeks.

During the annual meeting, Muzychka was asked what the future is for OI.

“We’re looking to get through the next few months with looking for some potential partnerships in regards to O-NET and OCCN,” he said.

“So once we get past that, then we’re hoping that the Olds Institute will go back to a little bit more of what I call the grassroots.”

Muzychka noted that from its inception until about 2010 or so, OI operated with no paid employees or office space. He indicated that that’s what he means by the organization’s “grassroots.”

“Our vision is for everything else to sort itself out in the next couple of months and Olds Institute to get ready and head forward with Mountain View Power and using those proceeds to getting back to funding community projects,” he added.

“In the last year, year-and-a-half, we’ve had to put a lot of that stuff on hold and that’s where I thank our volunteers for hanging on and waiting and we’ve just got to get through a few items here to get pointed in the right direction.

“So we’re eager and we’re ready. We just need to get some clarity on where everything is there.”