Windsor internet provider aims to ramp up internet speeds

Local independent ISP MNSi is part of a new move to get ultra high-speed internet to smaller cities such as Windsor.
Fibre optic services are being installed by smaller outfits in SW Ontario (iStock)

An independent telecommunications company in Windsor, Ont., is installing fibre optic cable​ across the city to provide internet speeds that can be hundreds of times faster than traditional service providers.

MNSi, locally owned in Windsor by Clayton Zekelman, has started rolling out fibre internet service to neighbourhoods in Windsor such as Oldcastle, East Windsor, and Walkerville.

"We want to build our own networks so we're not forced to rely on the incumbent networks," said Zekelman.
Clayton Zekelman, owner of MNSi, says big telecom isn't bringing fibre optic to older neighbourhoods and smaller cities fast enough. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

MNSi does sell older services that share wiring with the traditional, or incumbent, providers such as Bell or Cogeco. With new fibre optic installations the facilities are not shared with the traditional big players.

The CRTC has recently set targets for broadband internet speeds that are higher than what many users have available to them, and MNSi is not the only group in Southwestern Ontario trying to improve connectivity.

Southwestern Integrated Fiber Technology, known as SWIFT, is a non-profit working to get fibre installed in smaller cities and towns across the region. It was started by several municipalities in Ontario. Geoff Hogan, executive director of SWIFT, provides funding to communications companies that want to provide fibre. 

Hogan points out that bringing fibre optics to everyone in the southwest is a matter of equality, and helps bridge rural and urban gaps. But it's about more than streaming a binge-worthy TV show quickly. 

"Whether that be your fridge telling you what you're running out of, or medical gear that's monitoring grandma's pulse, it's just a massive amount of data, and the only thing that has the scalability to deal with the future load is fibre optics," says Hogan.

Ben Klass, a PhD student at Carleton University, says cities like Windsor are often on the waiting list for high-speed internet. (Courtesy of Ben Klass)

Industry watchers say smaller players have to step up because Canada's dominant providers are focused on serving the biggest urban areas. 

"While Toronto and Vancouver will often get the biggest headlines … it's places like Windsor, London and Sarnia that are often on the waiting list," says Ben Klass, a researcher at Carleton University who focuses on communications.

MNSi is on the same page. "What we're doing is definitely not usual," according to Zekelman, who feels big telecom isn't bringing fibre optic to older neighbourhoods and smaller cities fast enough. 

As for those big players, Geoff Hogan says to expect some growing pains for them as they adjust to higher, CRTC-mandated internet speeds. He points out, "the recent CRTC decision is a burden for the larger incumbent providers. But [it's] really great for the consumer."