Elliot Lake Broadband Implementation

May 17, 2021

The City of Elliot Lake needed to address broadband access issues in their community that were a barrier to continued economic development. The City knew that implementation of a comprehensive broadband infrastructure was key to supporting their waterfront development program and properly servicing the community. 

The Client: City of Elliot Lake

Elliot Lake Logo
Image from www.elliotlake.ca

Elliot Lake is a city of about 10 000 people located halfway between Sudbury, ON, and Sault Ste. Marie, ON with desirable properties for retirement living in the north. These properties had no telephone or internet infrastructure, discouraging the would-be newcomers from moving to the area. Those in the area tried using alternatives like mobile data plans or traditional satellite internet, both delivering less-than-ideal service performance. Waterfront properties were being developed on lakes 10-15 km from the downtown core as part of an economic development program. The cost from the incumbent telecom provider to build out infrastructure to each of these lakes was prohibitive. The City needed an alternative solution that was affordable and aligned with their needs. 

Broadband Infrastructure Analysis

In 2007, the City began to look for a consultant to do a feasibility study to explore alternatives to the current service. Lloyd Business IT Solutions (formerly Lloyd Research Group Inc) responded to the RFP and was hired to do the study.  

We explored ways to deliver telecom services to the new lots and a variety of business models for building and operating the implementation. Our recommendation was an innovative model that combined the strength of the municipality in planning and developing infrastructure with the strength of a regional ISP partner to operate and support the new system delivering VoIP over wireless broadband. We presented the City these recommendations. They included forecasted financials and proposed a project approach on how to leverage provincial and federal funding. 

We were sure there was an opportunity for the community to get faster and more affordable telephone and internet service.

The solution pointed to the City designing and building their own Fixed Wireless infrastructure. This would extend broadband services from downtown to outer reaches of the community. In addition, this step included Requests for Expressions of Interest to regional ISPs that might be interested in partnering with the City to operate the ISP after the new infrastructure was built.  

Next, we prepared a detailed system design, business plan, and administered a series of RFPs for equipment, towers, and services to build the proposed solution. Our business plan fleshed out details on market demand, pricing, operating expenses, and revenue share with the operating ISP partner.  

Implementation Phase

In Phase 3, the City took on the business plan and began implementation of the infrastructure, deployment of the network, connection to the ISP partner and their Point-of-Presence (POP) to activate the service. 

The new service went live in 2012. To ensure the population of Elliot Lake remains online, the service includes routine maintenance. It also includes regular promotion to let people know of the improved service. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need for affordable and reliable internet. The City has committed to pursue funding on a regular basis for hardware upgrades to keep up with ever-increasing need for more bandwidth. 

Implementation Outcomes

This project was a win for the City of Elliot Lake. Most importantly, they own and control their own broadband infrastructure. As a result, they can direct when and where resources are applied to improvements and expansion to support future community goals, instead of being dependent on external service providers. The ISP partner benefits from additional guaranteed subscribers at minimal cost to them. This project is quite sustainable because funds from the revenue sharing between the City and the ISP are directed into a capital reserve. These funds are designed to refresh the network equipment every 5-7 years. Click here for recent updates from Elliot Lake City Council.

The City has solved their broadband problem by treating it like other infrastructure they normally manage (i.e., bridges, roads, or arenas). They contracted out the professional, business, technical services to support their planning and design of the solution. They partnered with a regional ISP that had the expertise to operate the service on their behalf.

How can we help?

Municipalities similar to Elliot Lake, such as rural or northern towns, or Indigenous communities, may be facing similar broadband issues. Municipalities with comparable interests can engage LBITS to help confirm the best technical solution, business model, and partner arrangement for their community broadband needs. Book a coaching call with our team!