Nelson is throwing support behind large-scale broadband infrastructure, and with installation already complete at a number of Baker Street businesses, local hotels and Selkirk College, encouraging results are already self-evident.
“Everyone in the tech community is really excited,” said Simeon Pilipishen, operations manager for DHC Communications. “All the nerds are chomping at the bit.”
Thus far, broadband has been primarily utilized for ultra-fast Internet connections, but there are a variety of business applications which will significantly impact operating budgets and the general cost of doing business in Nelson. These include off-site local backup, hosted servers and Internet-based telephones.
Pilipishen put these burgeoning technologies into layman’s terms for the Star during an interview this week. He said off-site local backup enables businesses to store their data locally, but doesn’t require hardware on site.
“It doesn’t go to some weird cloud in the US, at some place where you can never reach anybody,” he said. “It’s right here locally, in Nelson.”
As for hosted servers, Pilipishen said the majority of local businesses use accounting software and business applications, which requires access to a server-type computer. With broadband technology they can run their system off the fibre network much easier and faster by moving servers to a “local cloud.”
“You don’t have to worry about backup or maintaining computer hardware, as everything is stored in a local secure data centre. It also frees up office space and removes heat and power consumption from your office,” he said.
Internet-based telephones, according to Pilipishen, are going to affect local business’ bottom lines.
“It’s just a chance for people to save money. Up until now if you need a business telephone line you pay Telus for a copper cable to your location. That gets expensive. A lot of businesses we’ve seen are running 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 lines. That’s 80 bucks a month on a traditional Telus-type line. With Internet-based telephones it becomes approximately half that price.”
He said the technology will open up a brand new market, which has already been inundated with competing companies.
“It opens you up to multiple providers. It’s the wild west. You don’t like company A, you go to company B. It’s wide open,” he said.
Pilipishen said any business with multiple locations would be wise to convert their phone lines immediately.
“It creates efficiency. We’re connecting offices together. It creates better collaboration between workers, shared computing resources.”
Essentially, it allows employees to do their work from literally anywhere world-wide that has a decent Internet connection.
These developments will give Nelson a competitive edge in the tech community, according to Mayor John Dooley and Tom Thomson, executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.
“We know from experience working with different groups provincially that rural communities with access to broadband are going to have significant advantages attracting and maintaining new business. It will become a critical part of our infrastructure,” said Dooley.
The mayor has been an outspoken proponent of the broadband initiative because he believes it will ultimately become a community utility not unlike sewer or water services. He said there is some confusion and skepticism in the community, mostly due to residents’ lack of familiarity with the cutting edge technology.
“The first thing I think is important for people thinking about broadband, is don’t make up your mind talking to providers, talking to city hall or the chamber of commerce. There are lots of misconceptions out there about what it’s going to do, what it’s going to cost, who can and can’t get it. And some people have an idea of what it is without understanding the benefits and value,” said Dooley.
Thomson said the feedback from broadband installers has been very positive. For instance, Hume Hotel general manager Ryan Martin has had it installed and is thrilled by the results.
“If you’ve got a hotel with everyone carrying in a laptop or a smartphone, all trying to access Wi-fi, it puts a real drain on the system,” Thomson said.
“If you get high speed from some of the major providers, you’re getting high speed but it’s only as high as they’re able to provide. They’ve not necessarily providing you with a dedicated strand of fibre coming into your building.”
Some technophobes have expressed hesitation about the cost of broadband installation, but Thomson believes their concerns are unfounded.
“Having a dedicated line, essentially you have 10 times the speed of anything available around, and the cost is significantly lower.”
Residents with questions about broadband can learn more at the website that has been built to educate the public at nelsonbroadband.com/