High speed internet still possible

Sergii Polishchuk and Dave Haines hope to buy Morenet from the City of Morden and continue providing residents with high speed internet. (LAUREN MACGILL, Morden Times)

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It might not be the end for Morden’s highly anticipated and controversial high-speed internet service.

Former Deputy City Manager Dave Haines and Sergii Polishchuk of Infotec Manitoba were on the original team that developed Morenet, and they are hoping to buy the service from the city and continue to operate it privately.

Haines said they have heard a lot of support from the community, as well as confusion and frustration that the service will be rolled back. He said Morenet was originally conceived to fill the severe need for better internet in Morden.

“Morenet has been filling that need for over 500 customers for the last two years at least and we would like that to continue in whatever way is possible,” he said. “The community has invested a lot in this and we would like to see that investment continue in some way.”

Just last week Mayor Brandon Burley announced that the city had pulled the plug on Morenet, citing unexpectedly high costs as the reason.

Initially, Morenet was going to cost $300,000 to $400,000 in capital cost and $100,000 yearly in operating costs. Burley estimated the city has spent around $650,000 on the service.

Operations were expected to cease October 30.

Burley said last week that the city had entered into negotiations to sell Morenet, but the final offer included terms that were “unacceptable” to the city.

Haines said they have reached out to city council, and are ready to accept the city’s terms to move the project forward.

“We think there’s a real positive way forward for both council and the community,” he said. “We would love to make that happen.”

Haines said he can’t touch on specifics of what those terms are since they are the subject of an ongoing negotiation, but said they are willing and ready to revisit the terms and move forward.

As a private service, Haines said they hope to provide their internet service for around $50 a month.

“We believe that Morenet is an affordable, sustainable service, that’s the values that it started under,” Haines said. “We don’t see that changing going forward. If we were to take this over, it would be the most affordable high speed internet service available definitely in this market.”

“We wouldn’t put ourselves on the line, our careers and our businesses and our homes and our personal resources, out there in this way if we didn’t believe that this was a sustainable service,” he added.

Haines said one of the challenges they have faced is that only around half of the network is currently built. In some cases, this has led to variable speeds.

“We expected to have been by now (at) 50 per cent coverage of the city,” he said. “The idea is to spread that load out over the whole community. Some customers are way above what we announced and some customers are about 50 per cent.”

Haines said they have invested their own resources in getting more coverage available, and would be ready to start taking on new customers and increasing the capacity of the network right away.

“We set up at least three new nodes that are ready to go to increase coverage in the community,” he said. “We believed that the negotiations were going well enough that we started that so that at the moment of an announcement we would be able to say to certain areas of town that we’re ready to take new customers right now.”

As they finish building the network and increase speeds, Haines said they don’t expect prices to go that far above their estimate. “We can’t commit to anything until we complete the business plan… but that’s where we’d be aiming for,” he said. “We believe that it is possible to provide a very high quality, secure, reliable service for a very fair price.”

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