Fibre and opportunities to coordinate connectivity may exist in the following transportation and infrastructure corridors in Alberta:
Electricity transmission towers
Transmission tower fibre optics, or optical ground wire (OPGW), is located at the topmost position between high-voltage power transmission structures that are distributed throughout Alberta. This wire is positioned to take advantage of an electric utility’s transmission right-of-way to transport large amounts of data. It generally serves two main purposes:
Protect electrical infrastructure by grounding lightning strikes and fault currents; and
Carry optical signals for the protection and management of the transmission line.
The data capacity of the OPGW in almost all cases greatly exceeds the needs of the Transmission Facility Operators, leaving room for others to make use of the utility as a high-speed fibre connection.
Municipal communications networks exist in some jurisdictions for the purpose of public safety communications, asset management, public transit system communications, dark fibre leases, and broadband internet service provision.
Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway
Fibre optic cables traverse existing rail rights-of-way. Rail lines are well suited for housing fibre backbones because the corridors and associated rights of way are owned by a single entity.
Petroleum and natural gas pipelines
Modern pipelines may employ fibre-optic monitoring systems along the length of the pipeline corridor. Like rail lines, pipeline corridors are well suited to homing fibre backbones as the long range rights-of-way are already negotiated.
Community & Volunteer Initiatives
In the UK, several rural communities have championed broadband initiatives by leveraging support from volunteers, landowners, farmers, private investors and government funding sources. These projects include Tove Valley Broadband, Broadband for the Rural North Ltd. (B4RN) and Fibre for Rural Nottinghamshire (F4RN). The initiatives are dependent on wayleave agreements between the broadband organization and farmer/landowner to enable work to be carried out on privately owned land (including access approval for network installation, maintenance and repair).
Volunteers from the community help with the administration of the project, recruitment of landowners, and even the physical labour involved (including digging trenches and laying duct work on the properties). Investor funding for the projects is raised by selling shares in the company (e.g. B4RN, F4RN) to the public. Shares are also offered as compensation to landowners.196
This innovative use of community and funding resources has considerably reduced the cost of fibre deployments in these rural areas. For example, B4RN was able to complete its network for a total of £2.7 million through a mixture of purchased shares (£1.4 M), loans (£1.3 M) and volunteer effort. This represents savings of £800,000 compared to the estimated commercial cost to deploy the fibre network. A similar strategy of leveraging local volunteer capacity and farmer / landowner involvement could be considered for rural Alberta to reduce the costs of deploying rural broadband networks.