Driving digital investment

Bell Aliant issued a press release today that caught my eye, announcing that it is extending fibre to the home (FTTH) service to three additional towns in Newfoundland and Labrador: Harbour Grace, Deer Lake and Stephenville.

These are some pretty small communities. Harbour Grace is a town of about 3100 people; Deer Lake is home to 5,000; Stephenville has a population of 8,000.

Bell Aliant is investing $4.8M to provide fibre optic connectivity to 8,100 homes and businesses in these 3 communities. Bell Aliant’s FTTH service, FibreOP, is available to more than 800,000 homes and businesses in more than 70 communities across Atlantic Canada and Ontario, with a target to have one million premises passed by the end of 2014.

Today’s announcement brings advanced digital infrastructure to communities that aren’t suburbs of major metropolitan areas. Harbour Grace is 100 kms from St. John’s. It is 30 kms off the Trans-Canada highway. Deer Lake is 50 kms north east from Corner Brook; Stephenville is 80 kms southwest of Corner Brook, the former home of a US air force base.

There is no government broadband program driving the investment, but there are competitive pressures at play. Eastlink offers cable-based TV, phone and internet.

Bell Aliant’s FTTH services in the province will be available to more than 139,000 premises, an investment of $65 million since 2011. At less than $600 per premises, the expansion is an interesting contrast to the costs described in my blog post from last week discussing Australia’s government-led experience to date.

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