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Nelson fiber utility sees explosive growth during pandemic

The head of the city’s information technology department shared numbers Friday showing explosive customer growth in the City of Nelson’s fiber-optic utility.

After gaining one customer in 2018 and losing one in 2019, there were 21 new clients in 2020 and another 19 last year or a 40 per cent growth rate in the last two years (from 60 to 100 customers).

The so-called “dark fiber” utility provides up to 1,000 megabit per second connectivity for big bandwidth users such as businesses using cloud-based computing, tele-health and video streaming.

Joanna Markin told council during a capital budget meeting Friday that it’s due to two things: more people working from home and price adjustments made in June 2019, which has allowed internet providers to better market the service.

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“We are seeing more and more people coming in, a lot more remote working in this town and we’re giving people the ability to do that by being able to promote this,” Markin said.

The director noted that fiber was extended to Johnstone Road last year with two dozen strands after a broadband request from Main Jet Motorsports.

The other part of its business model, the city will now work to market co-location. That’s where companies rent physical space for their own servers in Nelson’s physical server room.

Looking ahead, Coun. Keith Page hopes the city would leverage the fiber asset by providing Wi-Fi opportunities in the city, such as bringing the internet to places like the Rose Garden Cafe or Lions Park.

“Where are there opportunities that we want to be able to offer … internet out into those spaces so that people can be on TikTok uploading videos or doing FaceTime calls or the other kinds of things that people look to do and they may not necessarily want to leverage their mobile,” Page said.

The information services division has a capital budget of just over $324,000 this year – roughly half of last year’s budget.

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