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This 90-foot tower behind the village office in Lawrencetown is one of two erected to offer highspeed Internet via WiFi signal in the village and surrounding area. At least two more towers will be erected and a fifth is possible for nearby Paradise where interest in the project is high. A meeting to update citizens and potential subscribers to the co-operative is set for March 27 at 7 p.m. at the Library.
LAWRENCETOWN - Residents of Lawrencetown and surrounding area will get the lowdown on the community broadband project at a public meeting set for March 27 at the library – with the community WiFi co-operative launch expected to happen in early April.
“We’re really excited to turn the switch on and start bringing people on board,” said village commissioner Brian Reid. “I think we have over 115 folks that have contacted us looking to sign up.”
The highspeed Internet project has been in the works for several years and so far two 90-foot towers have been erected and the necessary electronic equipment installed. At the upcoming meeting, dubbed a pre-launch update, a presentation will look at membership in the new co-operative, services being offered, volunteers, and future plans.
Plans are in the works for another tower in the village and one on the South Mountain. But a fifth tower might also be erected in nearby Paradise where Reid said there has been a lot of interest in the Lawrencetown project.
The service originates on Lawrencetown Lane at Reid’s own property where a 12-bundle fibre optic cable runs. The village network taps into one of those gigabit cables and is broadcast as WiFi signal that can bounce from tower to tower and to tiny dishes installed at subscribers’ homes.
Potentially the Lawrencetown service could reach out 30 kilometres but that depends on the position of towers and the volunteers to help.
“Obviously we’re interested in helping our community and our neighbours but at some point we have to decide how far we can take the volunteer support component,” said Reid, noting the co-op is run by volunteers and that’s one reason the March 27 meeting will talk about volunteers. “If we get much further we’re also going to have to talk about people on payroll and things like that.”
The village is applying for additional funding to further the project that got off the ground initially thanks to a federal gas tax grant the village sought through Annapolis County.
The village itself will use the WiFi to help monitor its own water and sewer utilities and the village office. The village announced recently the co-op will offer the Internet service free to organizations that promote the community to alleviate the fiscal burden to those groups that include the Youth Arena, Annapolis Valley Exhibition, the recreation commission, pool society, library, and fire department. It will also make free WiFi available at select events such as the exhibition and the upcoming 4-H- Pro Show.
In a recent letter to residents, the village commission noted that it had invested more than $50,000 in planning, construction, and administration of the project.
“With a couple dozen volunteers from within and outside the village, along with thousands of volunteer hours, the community successfully navigated through eight federal departments to get four towers approved, creation of a business entity (Lawrencetown Community Development Co-operative Ltd.), and the engineering and setup of a modern high speed network,” the letter said.
The co-op has a seven-member board of directors drawing from the business community, the community at large, the not-for-profit sector, and the village commission itself.
The co-operative is doing a soft launch of service to subscribers who have already signed up, and a full public launch in early April. That event is expected to include participation from Annapolis County, the province, and the federal government. And the numerous volunteers and community are also invited.
The village said the service will have a 15Mbit and 20Mbit packages competitively priced with other local offerings -- $60 and $100 a month respectively -- and includes the necessary equipment to connect to the co-operative’s broadband.
Subscribers also become owners of the co-operative. And membership in the co-operative can also be purchased for $100 – with the share refunded if they leave the co-op.