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FibreForward Putting the Internet in the Hands of the Community

What’s possible? Regions with superior fibre-based

Alberta Fibre Forward

broadband networks have typically relied


on significant taxpayer-funded subsidies.


$60-80 $21

Thanks to past investments by both the

France Singapore

public and private sector, Alberta has the Performance (MBits/s)

opportunity to build a high-performing, future-ready Internet infrastructure with no material increases in cost to end users or spending by the government. What is needed are simple policy changes that will unlock the power of the private sector to bring next generation Internet infrastructure


to Alberta communities. Is it possible to

Alberta Status Quo


have better performance, at no new cost? In Alberta the answer is yes.




Government Subsidy (%)

The Fibre Forward model envisions bringing

Monthly recurring charge

high-performing Internet to all Albertans via an open, fibre-enabled network.

Broadband Tower


Fibre Backhaul to the Internet

ac re B



Fibre to the Home

Fib re

to t h


What is Backhaul? If the entire Internet network in Alberta is a skeleton, the core network would be the backbone or spine. Backhaul would be the limbs. And the individual links – to homes, businesses and institutions – would be the fingers and toes. Backhaul connections can be via copper wire, fibre, or even wireless. Essentially, backhaul is the intermediate link between the core network and the point from which users receive their service.

Mobile Devices

Single or Multiple Residential Dwellings



Extremely Remote Properties Commercial Buildings or Sites

The Internet of the future in Alberta Albertans live their lives online. Whether at work or at school, when seeking medical care or simply connecting with the world around us, the Internet is an important force in our lives. Today, access to the Internet is a necessity not a luxury – like electricity, the Internet has become fundamental to modern life. To thrive, everyone everywhere will need reliable, high capacity access. A high-performing Internet infrastructure is a foundational technology. For businesses, robust Internet connectivity is a productivity enhancer, enabling new and different ways for companies to run their business. Highperformance Internet infrastructure can also attract and spur the development of new businesses. For schools, the Internet is the key to new sources of knowledge and collaboration. Medical personnel, whether in Calgary or High Level, rely on the Internet to share information and improve care. And the Internet is changing the way we enjoy television and movies, connect with family and friends, and organize our lives, both at home and on the move. At root, Internet infrastructure is about connecting Albertans to opportunity. Fibre Forward is a coalition of like-minded Albertans that has come together to strengthen and improve those connections. How? Through open, accessible network infrastructure – extending Alberta’s existing network and putting the Internet in the hands of the community rather than in the control of a few large players. The technological key to this global connectivity is fibre optic cable – thin strands of glass that carry information by transmitting pulses of light, usually created by lasers. One bundle of fibre cable not much thicker than a pencil can carry all of the world’s current communications traffic. The best way to benefit from the capabilities of fibre is to connect a home, business or broadband tower directly to the fibre network. This type of direct connection – typically referred to as fibre-to-thepremise (FTTP) or fibre-to-the-tower – is more powerful as it does not suffer from the slowdowns or inconsistencies that can happen when connecting via copper wire. Connecting broadband towers with fibre vastly improves performance and reliability for users of wireless and mobile devices, including smartphones, as fibre improves the performance of the networks on which these wireless services are delivered. In Alberta today FTTP penetration is exceedingly low, available in only a few newly built premises. And the vast majority of wireless connections still depend on lower-speed and less reliable copper connections, or other wireless nodes, for backhaul connection to the Internet. Fibre Forward believes Alberta can, and must, do better.

The Fibre Forward coalition is not just about technology. It is about how businesses are structured, and created, to capitalize on the power of the Internet. It is about encouraging competition and through it, business development and innovation. With open access to a fibre grid, new businesses are created to provide new services. A fibre connection can also unlock new opportunities for businesses in virtually every sector. Better-performing and more reliable wireless and mobile Internet benefits businesses and individuals alike. The key to all of this is ensuring the province has a high-performing fibre network, and just as importantly, that everyone has access to it. Most of Alberta has a functional network today. The requirement, and the opportunity, is for the whole province to have a great network for tomorrow. A robust, comprehensive and future-safe network ready to manage data-intensive traffic in the workplace, the home, educational institutions and hospitals, and remote sites in every corner of the province. The stakes are high. Economic development, innovation, education, and quality of life increasingly rely on Internet connectivity. Alberta wants to be a world leader – we cannot rely on our key modern infrastructure to be simply good enough, for most people. Our Internet infrastructure needs to support, not curtail, our ambitions as a province. Fibre Forward has a vision of delivering that highperforming infrastructure to Alberta. Today only a tiny number of Alberta communities benefit from FTTP connectivity. And most of our broadband towers still use copper wire or even additional wireless backhaul, with implications for mobile Internet performance. We can do better. Fibre Forward believes that any Alberta community could access FTTP capabilities within a year, and all new broadband towers could be connected via fibre – with no material increase in the province’s current planned telecommunications spend. A province-wide fibre network that includes connectivity to all broadband towers could be built in three to five years by the private sector with no investment by the provincial government. With it, Albertans would benefit from access to higher-performing connectivity and increased choice for services – at similar costs to today. This vision can be realized with a private-sector solution, enabled by government policy, with the promise of broad benefit to the province and its future. We invite you to explore this document, and the promise that fibre holds for our future. The potential is enormous, but the solutions are straightforward. Fibre Forward was formed around a vision of improving Alberta’s future. Read on to see how you can participate in bringing that vision to life. We welcome your support in putting the Internet in the hands of the community.

“ We cannot rely on our key modern infrastructure to be simply good enough, for most people.”

“ Fibre Forward believes that 80% of Alberta cities and towns could have opportunity to access FTTP capabilities within a year – with no material increase in the province’s current planned telecommunications spend.”

What do we believe? Open access and open competition – separating network operators from service providers Fibre Forward believes that Alberta needs to have more than a simply functional Internet network. A province like ours, with global ambitions, requires modern infrastructure that will help us be competitive today and into the future. To achieve this, Alberta will need vision and leadership from the provincial government, and the dynamism, innovation and investment of the private sector. This combination has served Alberta’s needs well. From the government of Alberta, we believe it should build on the decisions it took in 2001 that has led to emergence of Alberta’s highly competitive market for Internet services. In 2001 the province of Alberta ensured there would be open, effective wholesale access to the Internet network by granting a contract for the management of the network to Axia NetMedia Corp. Unlike traditional incumbent telecommunications providers, Axia is solely focused on ensuring a high-performing open access network infrastructure - it does not also provide voice, television or other applications to consumers, and instead leaves that market to its wholesale customers. This market differentiation is key to enabling the benefits of real competition that have been seen in Alberta. Consider the example of an airport. An airport is a key piece of infrastructure in a region, supporting the local economy and improving the quality of life in the area. Multiple passenger airlines and freight carriers operate from the common hub, opening opportunities for differentiated services and increased choice. Now consider an airport operated by a single airline. The airline would have no incentive to allow other airlines to fly into or out of the airport – it could only lose business if it did. Owning the airport, the airline could effectively establish a monopoly over the local passengers who would have access only to the routes, flight times, and prices the incumbent airline offered. Even if the government legislated that it must allow access to other airlines, it could set prices and impose conditions that would make it virtually impossible to compete. In this example, had Air Canada owned Calgary International Airport, it is unlikely Westjet would have ever emerged. This same analogy can be applied to the network. If a content or service provider owns the network infrastructure, it has no reason to allow other content or services to be carried on the network. In seeking to sell its own service bundles, it can squeeze out potential competitors by making access to the distribution network difficult or uneconomic.

Albertans have seen this scenario played out, and how simple policy decisions can unlock major benefits: •

Prior to the government granting the network management contract to Axia there were only two Internet service providers in the province. Today there are 80, providing real choice for rural Albertans and enforcing price discipline

Where wholesale Internet services used to be $40 to $250 per Mbps, today the same service costs $9

Quotes to build additional fibre lines used to be ready in 34 days (on average); today quotes average 9 days

Repairs to connection sites are also completed faster - 77% faster for unmanned sites typical in rural areas

Fibre Forward believes that network connectivity and Internet services are fundamentally different businesses and should be treated that way. Like with airport operators and airlines, companies should have to choose which side of the industry in which they do business. In its handling of the provincial broadband network in 2001 the government of Alberta effectively demanded that companies make this choice. The results are clear: more competitors, better services over a larger extended network, and lower prices in rural and urban communities alike. This framework of separating connectivity from services has worked successfully in Alberta and other progressive jurisdictions around the world. Fibre Forward believes that Alberta should formalize this framework over the long-term as a matter of policy. Improvements don’t require new money. What is needed is renewed vision and resolve. An open access fibre network, the Alberta SuperNet, has been successful, and an advantage to the Alberta economy: •

An un-conflicted network manager and operator, investing to extend market based wholesale services around the province

Uncompromised, reliable transport over this network of large amounts of data, with guaranteed connectivity

Competition between more than 80 service providers where previous there had only been two incumbent telecommunications providers

Lower costs and better services for rural Albertans

Fibre Forward wants to work with the provincial government to build on this vision and extend it to more of the province. This requires establishing clear policy with respect to an open playing field, and in doing so, enabling further private sector innovation, better services to consumers, and lower prices.

Service levels: Promise vs. experience The principal benefits of fibre are speed and reliability. With fibre, data transmission speeds of 25 Mbps are the norm, with capacity having the potential to extend beyond 1000 Mbps. To put that in context, the typical speed available via a copper wire connection is less than1.5 Mbps in Alberta. Fibre networks are also more reliable than outdated, and often aging, copper-based networks. The way fibre networks are designed, and the technology behind them, makes them more flexible, dramatically limiting the impacts of any interruption, often resulting in a seamless experience for the customer even when major incidents occur. While it is true that transmission speeds of 25 Mbps are technically possible over the existing copper wire network, experience with such service often fails to match its promise. Customers connected via copper regularly experience slower transmission speeds, particularly during high traffic periods. Service at 25 Mbps may be available, though often only at off-peak times. And copper cannot deliver these speeds over any meaningful distance. Similarly, with copper wire, download and upload speeds are vastly different. In particular, uploads are considerably slower without a fibre connection (where the home, office, or broadband tower is connected via copper wire). This has significant implications for the productivity and effectiveness of Internet communications, both professional and personal. There are many free services that allow users to test the speed of the service they are receiving – the real speed customers receive is often far slower than advertised. Fibre connections do not suffer these deficiencies. High capacity fibre can be designed to prevent slowdowns when many users are accessing the network. Fibre also allows for uploads at the same speed as downloads. This is particularly true when a home or premise is connected directly to the fibre network, however wireless and mobile service levels are also vastly superior when the broadband tower is connected via fibre rather than relying on copper wire or wireless backhaul. A comprehensive open access fibre network that includes connectivity to broadband towers ensures that the promise of high-speed data transmission matches the user experience; that the speeds realized are the same as advertised.

Fibre Forward has a core objective: ensuring all Albertans have an internet network that matches their ambitions. Alberta is already a growing energy power, and new, Internetenabled technologies offer the opportunity to make energy company offices in Calgary centres of global influence. It offers the opportunities for new companies to emerge, and new industries to take shape in Alberta. Researchers at medical and academic institutions rely on connections to the world as Alberta becomes a region of more prominence internationally. Albertans are savvy consumers of data and information, and with innovation in Internet-enabled devices, and the applications that run on them, the data demands of Albertans are set to increase. And that demand will also be for more information while away from the home or office – mobile data providers will need to be equipped to meet that demand. The key enabler of improvements in mobile data service is more reliance on high-performing fibre; extending the fibre backhaul network closer to the broadband towers that deliver wireless services. Our companies, institutions and people are part of a global economy, competing against the world for opportunities. If we are to build on our province’s enviable position a high-performing, future-ready network infrastructure is not a nice to have – it is a need to have.

In a world where China plans to bring fibre connections into 100 million homes by 2015, when 90% of Australians will also be connected by fibre, and where Google and other companies have aggressive plans to build on more than 117 fibre-to-the-premise networks in the United States, a comprehensive fibre network is becoming not simply a competitive advantage but a competitive necessity. Fibre Forward is about positioning Alberta for success in this environment. This is Fibre Forward’s vision: a robust, higher capacity, and more reliable network that can accommodate Alberta’s data demands at home and on the move, for today and the foreseeable future. Today Alberta has an incomplete fibre network that leaves many communities and customers with substandard Internet service, meaning they cannot take advantage of the full range of services available to them. Without improvements to Alberta’s infrastructure, in the future these opportunities will be even further out of reach. The consequences are significant: lower productivity, less innovation, diminished competitiveness and a weaker and less diverse economy. To Fibre Forward, there is a clear path forward. We believe that any Alberta community could have FTTP connectivity within a year. Every new broadband tower could be connected with fibre rather than unreliable copper. With no new financial commitments from the provincial government. We are not proposing that government develop, finance or build this infrastructure. This vision can be realized with no material increase to the currently planned telecommunications spend. Unlike most other jurisdictions, Alberta has a strong base and does not require significant capital-raising or program spending to make our network world class. Except in the most remote areas of the province, there is a clear business proposition if the policy conditions are right – service providers will make the investments necessary to deliver fibre-based or high-speed local wireless connectivity to Alberta customers. However there is an important role for government as a policymaker and leader. If government sets the conditions, Albertans will deliver a next generation network that will connect the province to the significant opportunities ahead of it. The Fibre Forward coalition represents those who stand to benefit from such a network: we represent all Albertans.

What are we trying to do? Big improvements at no new cost. 1.

Complete the province-wide open access Community Interconnect Grid, and extend it as far as economically possible within one year – ensuring that all communities in Alberta have equal access to the same high quality and competitively priced fibre network.


Establish policies that give choice to communities – create the competitive environment that will allow communities to choose how to connect to the network, whether through wireless solutions or comprehensive connection of fibre to the premise (FTTP).


As a matter of policy, separate ownership and management of the network from the provision of services – recognize the open access network as core infrastructure, analogous to an airport or highway system


Commit that all new premises, including broadband towers installed and operated by mobility service providers, be connected via high-performing fibre


Structure governance of existing network to ensure longterm character – providing incentive for private companies to invest to provide services over the network

The appropriate industry structure already exists in parts of Alberta, but needs to be validated and supported by clear policy. An open access fibre network, the Alberta SuperNet, has been successful, and an advantage to the Alberta economy: •

An un-conflicted network manager and operator, investing to extend market based wholesale services around the province

Competition between more than 80 service providers where previous there had only been two incumbent telecommunications providers

Lower costs and better services for rural Albertans

Fibre Forward will work with the provincial government to build on this vision, establishing clear policy with respect to an open playing field, enabling further private sector innovation, better services to consumers, and lower prices.

“ Every major investment in communications capacity we’ve seen so far as a country has been triggered by a change in government policy.” Wired magazine; July 4, 2012

What’s in it for you? In a word, Fibre Forward is about Alberta’s potential. An expansive, future-ready fibre network means benefits to the province today while enabling and unlocking new opportunities for our future. New industries, improvement on our traditional strengths, better services, and stronger communities. Higher-performing, more reliable wireless and mobile Internet services. All with no more telecommunications spending than is already planned.


Infrastructure Services

Distance Learning

Surveillance & Monitoring

For oil & gas and other core Alberta industries: •

Hosting / CoLocation


Higher-performing, lower cost connections to remote fields and work sites HR

Reliable infrastructure for data-intensive monitoring and analysis activities in the office not just in the field

Potential for new operational efficiencies and remote asset management, better connecting Calgary to the oil sands and to resource plays around the world

Choice within a competitive market for Internet applications and services, providing alternatives to expensive longterm packages


Finance and Accounting

Content Management

Software Services

Business Intelligence

Applications Gaming

Video Streaming

For our key institutions – schools, universities •

More secure, robust and lower-cost connections of Albertans to each other, and to the world – including the same service, and similar prices, in rural communities as in urban centres Fundamental infrastructure, and the ability to tap into cutting-edge services from across Alberta and the world



Sports, TV Shows, News

Social Media

For our healthcare system:

Productivity New opportunities for existing businesses

Economic Growth

A network that enables collaboration and supports the technology-intensive medical system of the future

A real, reliable bridge between city and country, ensuring consistent medical care in the biggest city and the smallest town

The opportunity for real-time, in-home patient monitoring, reducing the burden on long-term care facilities

New businesses

Competition & Choice

For the high technology and IT industries Open Access

Major opportunity – connectivity is the lifeblood and inspiration of software and application developers

Empowerment of Internet entrepreneurs and bottom-up innovation through affordable fibreto-the-premise connections


Network Neutrality


For families and communities: •

Higher performing, more reliable Internet services – at home, work and on the move

The benefit of choice – a telecommunications system that encourages competition, and the price and service benefits that come with it

Access Methods Fibre

Wireless LAN

Mobility Point to Point Wireless

How are we governed? Fibre Forward is not a company, nor is a formal association. We are not seeking investors or to make a profit. There is no chairperson or board of directors. Rather, we are a group of Albertans committed to ensuring that our province seizes the opportunities ahead of us. We want to marshal support for our vision by growing our coalition and educating Albertans on the value and importance of a high-performing, open access Internet infrastructure. Members of our coalition are only expected to share our vision, and are asked to give voice to our call for a policy framework that will unlock business investment in taking fibre forward all over Alberta. The coalition is a collaborative effort, intended to amplify and provide focus to the broad group of sectors, companies, institutions and individuals who stand to benefit from a highperforming, future-ready Internet infrastructure. We believe that this includes literally everyone in Alberta, including wireless and mobility service providers, and incumbent telecommunications providers. There is no membership charter or fee. Each member is responsible for their own costs to attend meetings, conferences, and coalition events if they so choose. We are a coalition of shared principle, not rigid structure. Having heard from diverse groups around the province about the importance of securing the future of Alberta’s Internet infrastructure, Axia NetMedia Corp. has given initial voice to these concerns in this document. Axia will continue to play a coordinating role, in the spirit of full collaboration with coalition members and other interested parties.

Join Fibre Forward We invite to join our effort and to help advance the vision of a highperforming, future-ready network infrastructure that supports Alberta’s tremendous potential. Email us at to learn more about Fibre Forward and how you or your organization can help give voice to our vision. We can add you to our mailing list, and you will be updated on Fibre Forward’s activities and initiatives, including planned conferences. By joining Fibre Forward you will also have the opportunity to participate in the evolution of our efforts, shaping the future of our province. We urge you to contact us and to play a role in developing Alberta’s future by putting the Internet in the hands of the community.

FibreForward Putting the Internet in the Hands of the Community For more information about Fibre Forward: Please contact us at: Follow us on Twitter: @fibrefwd

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