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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Two Cowboys on a Journey: Local Community Fibre Internet Service Provider is O-NET, Olds, Alberta, Canada

Taking Control of Your Destiny

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If there is one thing you can do Monday that will make your community grow, what will it be?

Local communities are going through difficult times in Alberta, Canada. The Province is hurting from tens of thousands of people out of work. Businesses are shutting down. Folk are seeing their livelihoods disappear. Hope is increasingly in short supply. A series of events are causing pain in Alberta. People all over are forced to deal with it. Some communities are better equipped to deal with it, than others.

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Alberta got everything it could have wanted in the modern world. It is energy-rich, food rich, and enterprise rich. Not so long ago, and for a while it was the chief breadwinner for the entire Canada - a "have" Province. Billions of oil royalty dollars from the pockets of the Prairie citizens sustained social welfare for the entire country of Canada - the "have not" Provinces.

In good times people often neglect to ask the hard questions. Questions about a future that may not be as rosy as the present. Responsible people know that good times don't last. They don't wait for adversity before addressing risk. These people don't wait for others to move. They don't rely on governments and corporations to do things for them. They take control of their destiny. Take measures into their hands to become future-proof. They have a producer mindset.

Just north of Calgary, twelve years ago a small community's leaders dared to confront their town's hard questions. It set in motion a series of events that is now helping its people.

Joe Gustafson, the chair of the Olds Institute puts it this way: "The people of Olds took destiny into their hands by investing in infrastructure that helped to create more capacity to connect, do business, innovate, educate, learn and compete."

O-NET started to connect the community in Olds.  As a result, residents and businesses have access to the kinds of technology services and experiences you’d only find in larger cities. They went all out. Olds now has access to technology services and experiences you only find in a select few places on the planet!

It has Gigabit Internet.

In 2004, the Technology Committee of the Olds Institute for Community and Regional Development began focusing on laying the foundation for this connected community with the development of an Open Access Telecommunication Network. In 2011, the construction of a state-of-the-art fibre-optic network began. With this network now in place throughout the entire community, every resident and business in town have access to technology that far exceeds that which major corporations in cities of the world can access.

As Canada’s first community-owned and operated Fibre-to-the-Premises network, O-NET brings together and delivers unique broadcasting, phone and Internet services to their residential and business customers. They have the fastest Internet in the country, the latest high-definition television features, fully customizable telephone systems, mass data storage and unlimited capacity for virtual private networks and other computer systems. The town stepped into the 21st Century. The rest of Alberta fell behind.


Olds made the commitment to a fibre network once they acknowledged the importance of Internet as a utility in the same way electricity, sanitation and water are important to the town. With it, the community is better off.

The approach to sourcing and provisioning changes, if the Internet is treated as a utility. It becomes a common community concern. Its quality becomes recognised as having an integral role and impact on the lives of all the people; it cannot be entrusted to someone else in the hope that they will have your best interest at heart. It becomes the responsibility of the members of the community to have a stake in infrastructure that serves and impacts their daily lives.

The utility infrastructure and its performance attract a different level of ownership, commitment, control and responsibility from a community. Collectively they invest in it, use it, and share in its benefits. The burden of the utility is divided amongst the various members, with heavier users contributing more to offset the cost.

Yes, high-speed Internet is bringing more business to Olds. It is the term "capacity" that got our attention. Having the infrastructure created more capacity for the community overall. It contributes to better business, education, entertainment, communication and innovation. It enriches people's lives in Olds. There is no end to the possibilities it offers the people of the community.

The biggest value of the investment is its ability to give the members of Olds options. With options, people can weather the storm.

We are proud to tell a little of the O-NET story. There is a lot more exciting story to be told, and we look forward to bring you further instalments about O-NET, The Olds Institute and the successful Producers in communities all over Alberta.

Hendrik van Wyk
One of the Two Cowboys
O-Net Users.

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