Dianne St. Jean
Company seeking Valemount as Pilot Project

During the regular Village of Valemount Council meeting of January 22, a presentation was given on a proposed pilot project that says would provide broadband network for the entire community.

Since the original delegation applicant was unable to appear at Council, Kiba Dempsey gave the presentation on the proponent’s behalf.

The proposal comes from GuestTel, a telecom-based tech company based in Vancouver that offers internet connectivity services to travelers, residents and businesses, with services that include ISP services for ‘wired’ internet, wireless broadband network services, and IPTV products for ‘Live’ TV channels to residents.

What the company wants is permission to utilize and gain rooftop access to key village buildings, which would involve the placement of one to two small cellular-base stations.

In the presentation report submitted to Council (posted on the Agenda) the company says it wants to include Valemount as one of a few towns in conducting a pilot project that would “launch a new prototype service installation involving a broadband private 4G/LTE cellular network for residences and businesses, marketed under the brand name MTel Wireless”.

They list the following in their proposal:

The claim is that this would ultimately augment or even replace existing DSL connections that are in place, along with basic mobile-device service as well.

The basis for the pilot project is to “test the viability of providing both residential and mobile services in one service, and to scale a small test zone to cover the entire town.”

In order to do that, the project requires access to at least one or two, or a few different building locations with which to activate a pre-installed Telus fibre connection account and cellular-base stations, and already they have their eye on the Valemount Community Television (VCTV) building, as they say it appears to be the most viable.

VCTV manager and Valemount Entertainment Society coordinator Michael Peters responded to the proposal and expressed his concerns during Public Comments.

In a statement Peters said, “The Valemount Entertainment Society has been providing television services to Valemount and area as a tax-funded service since the late 1970s. In recent years, VES has been converting analog TV channels to digital, and has plans to convert all our analog channels to digital by the end of 2020. During the process, we will be adding additional channels, and hope to offer 18 or more high quality digital channels to area residents. This upgrading is an expensive process, and our Board has prudently managed our reserves to allow us to do this from our existing funding.” He added that VES has already spent many thousands of dollars already in upgrading.

“VES’ hope is that by providing 18 or so desirable, high quality digital TV channels, that some people who are currently paying $75-$100 per month (which works out to $900-$1,200/year) for satellite TV may choose to switch to VES’ service, which is already included in their taxes. (The cost to ratepayers for VES TV and radio rebroadcasting is about $30 per $100,000 of property value per year).

In regards to the pilot project calls for internet rates of $69-$89 per month, Peters said, “The proposal does not state whether this includes IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) Services, and that their website lists IPTV services as being provided through Cipher TV at a basic 25 channel package of $17.95 per month.”

Peters believes that the proponent should be holding discussions with VES (whom they had not yet contacted with the idea), or anyone else who might be impacted prior to their proposal being considered by Council.

He also noted during Council comments that the proposed service would not contribute toward employment or investments to the community itself.

According to Joel Burke, president of GuestTel Communications Corp., they have already had techs on the ground to assess or reconnoiter their options, and that several hotels have already tentatively expressed interest.