Business

CityWest fields more Internet questions from Prince Rupert council

CityWest Marketing Manager Chad Cunningham was back presenting to council during a regular meeting. He was there a month ago, but moments into his presentation a power outage prevented a broadcast of the council meeting.

Council felt the presentation was worth a repeat and invited Cunningham to return.

While Cunningham reiterated his previous presentation, he received more direct questions from city council members the second time around, who said some of the public has been asking them questions.

In April The Northern View ran an extensive article on Cunningham’s original presentation, primarily because of the power failure and the public’s limit to access the information.

We thought, however, it might be of interest to the readers what questions were posed by council the second time around and have focused on that here, rather than recapping the presentation for a second time.

When Councillor Anna Ashley asked if CityWest doesn’t pay for gigabyte transfers, Cunningham said that’s true.

“We haven’t suggested that’s how it works. The argument is that if I transfer one hundred gigabytes this month versus one gigabyte next month it doesn’t necessarily cost CityWest more, however as customers use more on average, they contribute to more congestion and more traffic on the internet, which forces us to have to buy more bandwidth to service the same number of customers,” he said.

As usage per customer goes up, the cost to serve each customer also increases, he added.

Councilllor Ashley also asked if the lower speeds that some people experience at times are related to high usage or people using more than their fair share of the internet during certain times of the day.

“If there is a lot of congestion on the network at a given point of time, and if we don’t have enough bandwidth, then yes the speeds and quality would be affected. It goes back to the necessity for us to keep upgrading bandwidth to service everyone,” answered Cunningham.

One of the ways of solving the bandwidth issue would be running a fibre link to Prince George, but it could cost more than CityWest could make a business case for.

It would come back to finding partnerships or funding for an infrastructure project, Cunningham said, suggesting there are options for the company to pursue.

At this point in time, CityWest is doing due diligence to determine what the price would be and exactly how much would be saved by putting in a fibre link.

“It may be that when we come to the bottom line of it all, that it’s not a feasible project. But when we’re standing in front of the regulator, at least we will have that in our hand to say, we’ve tried everything, and this is what we’ve been forced to do and it’s just not feasible for us to do this.  What’s happening is the corridor is suffering because of it. It would give us more ammunition to lobby for a better rate,” Cunningham told council.

Councillor Kathy Bedard asked what kind of reaction has been coming from the customers to the company’s plan to enforce limits.

“It seems like a fair process, a fee for a service provided. How is the general public reacting?” she asked.

With a few exceptions, Cunningham said, when people are dealt with one-on-one, they seem to be understanding and that’s what he’s heard from other staff.

“The biggest challenges are the myths floating around like it doesn’t cost CityWest more so what’s the big deal. If that were true, it wouldn’t be a big deal and we wouldn’t be looking for a solution to the problem,” he said.

“There’s also the belief that the CRTC said you couldn’t do this so what are you guys doing? Are you going to get fined or what’s going on here? The CRTC did say “no” to usage billing, but in certain cases and around wholesale arrangements that had nothing to do with retail pricing. It didn’t affect our wholesale, so they’re ruling didn’t even help us, which was unfortunate,” Cunningham added.

Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne asked if CityWest’s prices and caps are competitive with other companies and heard they are the same.

“The price for going over the cap is $2 per gigabyte with Telus and with us,” he said.

When asked for a timeline by Councillor Gordon-Payne, Cunningham answered CityWest is hoping to have an online portal by June or July where customers can access information about their own internet usage and after that’s implemented,  will be given another two months before the company starts to enforce limits.

Around the same time, the company will release new plans that are more closely tied to internet usage and customers will be able to switch if they choose.

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