A community in the Annapolis Valley will soon be launching its own broadband Wi-Fi network. 

The Lawrencetown Village Commission has been working with volunteers to set up two 27-metre towers that would provide an internet signal up to 15 kilometres away.

The initiative is in response to complaints from businesses and residents about the low speeds and bandwidths of current broadband internet options in the area.

It's about ten times faster than what's possible with what we have now - Brian Reid

"We're seeing 30 to 40 megabytes upload-download speeds just with the temporary test set up we have now," said Brian Reid, chair of the public works committee for the village.

"It's about 10 times faster than what's possible with what we have now for those places that are restricted to DSL-type technology."

Reid also runs an IT business in Lawrencetown. About ten years ago his company paid an internet service provider to bring in a 12-fibre bundle for commercial use.

"At the time we didn't know how much we'd need," Reid said.

"Eventually, it became known that we were only using two of the fibres, and there was a lot of pressure from my fellow business people and village commissioners that they were anxious to have access to those other fibre bundles."

New tech is making project possible

Reid agreed to give the village access to the extra fibre lines, and so began a two-year process of figuring out the best way to bring Wi-Fi to Lawrencetown.

"We looked at what other communities were doing, and we explored some of the technology they had," Reid said.

"Some of it addressed tourism needs in terms of Wi-Fi hotspots, but what was driving it was village public works requirements, as well as the needs of businesses — and that meant a much more robust internet connection than we could get through some of that technology."

In June 2015, a new wireless broadband technology became available that allowed throughput speeds of 450 megabits per second. Reid says the project would not have happened without this new technology becoming available.

Annapolis village wi-fi service

Barry Roscoe (right), tower construction specialist and manager of the volunteer workforce, explains plan details to Brian Reid. (Submitted by Brian Reid)

Improvements to village infrastructure

The system will run on wireless broadband with directional antennas using Ubiquity equipment and Trilon Towers. The dishes are able to connect with the towers from up to 15 kilometres away.

The village could add a third and fourth tower to the service, depending on the demand. The site of the third tower on the South Mountain will also mean improvements to how the village manages its water utility and waste water infrastructure.

"The village is looking long-term at installing its own wind turbine there to help offset energy costs," Reid said.

"The village owns a water shed there, and we need to be able to communicate with that tower to be able to collect some weather data. But since we're doing all that for the infrastructure for the water utility, it's a good fit to add broadband antennas to that as well."

"We try to make decisions in the best interest of our taxpayers, and get as many uses out of a signal technology as we can."

Price will be competitive with current providers

Reid says one of the towers has already been assembled. The second tower should be put together later this week. The foundations for the towers will be built in the coming weeks and then two initial towers can actually go up.

Reid says there's one final regulatory requirement to send letters to homeowners within a few hundred feet of the towers. Those people will have 30 days to respond with concerns.

If all goes well, Reid says Industry Canada will give final approval, and the service will hopefully start at the beginning of March.

Reid says the village will set up a cooperative to run and manage the service once it's up and that it will be financially self-sustaining.

A firm service price hasn't been set yet, but Reid says the village is aiming for a charge of $40 per month for non-streaming connections and $80 per month for streaming.

"We've certainly had a lot of calls," he said. "I wouldn't guess how many people want to sign up, but I think we would be kept quite busy just by the number of people that have made inquiries already."