Kilworth PPM Re: Revised Zoning for New Subdivision

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I attended last week’s public meeting regarding a revised re-zoning request being put forth for the Don Black lands. If you missed the first go around back in December 2013, just click here to see what happened then.

This most recent zoning application was a very, very different story from the first. On a side note, I was pleased to see some new faces amongst the crowd in attendance: some people I know but haven’t seen at a meeting before, some people that have recently moved to Kilworth, and others who have chosen to engage at this point.

For reference, here’s the public information packet. I’m hosting it myself since I don’t know how long the municipality will leave it up on their website. This was the information distributed to council and the public prior to the meeting – council only received it on May 22, just five days before the public meeting.

dbi-tridon-may272015-zoning-amendmentI was a few minutes late for the presentation from Tridon (who has replaced Stantec on the project). Here’s what I got from the presentation:

  • Asking for duplex, twinned, single detached, townhouses in the UR3 areas
  • Minimum 28m height is a typo, should read “maximum”
  • Claim that there will be three multi-use pathways – Daventry, Doan Drive, and the main north/south drag that will connect the South Winds Dev and Don Black dev, up to Glendon
  • Took inspiration from new 3-story walkup near Masonville for Block I
  • Talking about the school like it’s definitely going to be there; not a done deal, despite school board (which one?) expressing interest
  • Municipal staff asking to enhance Optimist Park; DBI/Tridon ready to place one or two soccer fields at Optimist Park; have retained park planner to help sort out the plan
  • Need to widen Glendon at two points, where new north/south street comes out and at Springfield Way

Questions I wrote down during the presentation (answers later):

  • Why is there such a massive difference between the proposal from December 2013 and this latest proposal?
  • It’s been almost 18 months since the original proposal came through. Why are we still at a phase where, really, there is no detail as to exactly what Don Black Investments and Tridon want to put on the land?
  • Who will pay for the streetlights on Glendon, and the eventual enhancement of Glendon/Vanneck/Coldstream/Jefferies (a.k.a. Five Corners)?

Questions and Answers:

  • Got clarification on what setback means, and they want to reduce it from 6m to 2.5m
  • Ken D. asked whether the traffic study had included cyclists or not; it didn’t
  • I followed up and asked why it hadn’t, and the answer was that the original study was very old and Tridon has never seen a traffic study that included cyclists
  • Al D is concerned about traffic, another 120 cars in the current development area; probably looking at ~1,000 cars mostly heading to London
  • Brian Lima, municipal engineer, municipality is looking at EA for Glendon Dr from bridge to 402, focus will be streetscape development; EA will produce baseline info to evaluate how to handle Glendon Dr
  • Mayor Edmondson says the want to get EA done before development starts
  • Al D asked when construction will start; Tridon went over the process, wastewater treatment pipeline still needs to be finished; hoping to have first housing done late 2016 or early 2017
  • Brian Lima says earliest EA will be complete is early 2017
  • Jane C, lives on Komoka Rd; does not support bylaw amendment application; OFA is calling for protection of multiple kinds of land, including this farm property; has a history with Tridon and protesting the way they do development in Komoka and her aunt’s land; much applause
  • Darren on behalf of Ratepayers Association; “I’m for development, but not this development. This development completely changes the face of Kilworth.” Lots of consistency now from river up to Stephen Moore and Baron Cres; and then there’s this proposal; pointing out how other developments by the same company are 40′ wide, 36′ wide, and 34′ wide; this is not for Kilworth
  • Ian T; how many more people is this going to bring? Average of 2.1 per household, but no one at Tridon wanted to do the math for us and give us a total number, potentially because the number of households to be built is still up in the air(?)
  • Zelinka Priamo representative (didn’t catch her name) has a problem with additional C1 (commercial) proposed as a big C1 hub is supposed to go on NE corner of Tunks and Glendon
  • New planning justification not submitted because DBI feels this is the same development with minor tweaks; this woman has been working on planning applications for 30 years and has never seen an application with such a huge lack of information
  • Jim C asks “Can I split an existing lot into a triplex?” Mayor says, “I don’t think you’d want that.” Jim responds “Exactly,” to a bit of laughter.
  • Victor N just moved here from Tecumseh, daughter suggested it as a beautiful area; retired from Canada Post management; seniors centre will likely be 3 or 4 floors, and many of those seniors won’t be able to get their mail; this plan will turn Kilworth into an area that’s no longer nice; no shopping, no buses; doesn’t make sense
  • Donna S is concerned that this doesn’t suit the existing neighbourhood; mentioned the 3 storey walkup in Masonville – it’s ugly, doesn’t belong here; very worried about traffic
  • How many cars is anticipated to exit onto Glendon Dr? 995 during AM peak time.
  • Parking and visitor parking would be put in place as per the bylaw(s) that require them

Answers to my questions:

  • The design is drastically different because the municipality asked us to go from two entrances to Glendon, down to one
  • Don’t have any idea what we want to market on C1 and some UR3 properties because we don’t have the zoning yet
  • Chances are that the conditions laid out by the County will say that the developer must pay for the new streetlights and enhancements to “Five Corners”

Later on I got a chance to read a statement I had prepared. It ended up being the final word of the night, though I didn’t intend it to be so. I was asked to cede the floor to others earlier in the night after asking my questions I had written down. The statement went, more or less, as follows:

I have some serious misgivings about the revised proposal being presented here today. Here are a few:

  1. This looks *nothing* like the original proposal presented December 4, 2013.
  2. I will say, on a positive note, that Daventry Way has been opened up. I appreciate that being taken into consideration after the last public participation meeting.
  3. On the other hand, the original proposal maintained a lot of flow with the existing settlement, and proposed wide path ways that would encourage active transport around the neighbourhood. In the documents we see today, those have been completely done away with.
  4. It appears that a 6 storey building is proposed for Block G. I fully understand the need for mixed housing, however a 6 storey building simply doesn’t make any sense outside of a larger community like Strathroy. People living in apartment buildings typically expect highly walkable areas, which, much as I enjoy living in this area, Kilworth and Komoka do not qualify as highly walkable areas, with Kilworth currently receiving a Walk Score of 9.
  5. The proposal doesn’t appear to contain anything that would significantly alter the Walk Score.
  6. Information about proposed heights for several blocks are missing from the proposal.
  7. The street design, frankly, is pathetic and will make the proposed settlement a nightmare to navigate. It doesn’t use the current set of best practices being used in the most walkable neighbourhoods worldwide.

Overall, this proposal simply contains far too much density for the area. I was mostly in favour of the original, but this has taken a drastic turn for the worse. I was happy to defend the original proposal, despite its minor flaws, but I cannot, in good conscience, ask Councillor DeViet to vote in favour of this proposal as it stands before us today.

That got a round of applause, as did many other statements made and questions asked by members of the public throughout the night. Mayor Edmondson had a hard time maintaining order at several points as people got fed up with the answers – and in some cases non-answers provided by Tridon. Needless to say it didn’t go well for Tridon and Don Black, and we hope the next version of the zoning application is very different. Whether the planner, Ben Puzanov, mandates another public meeting for the next iteration remains to be seen.

Recent Discussion with Councillor DeViet

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I live in Middlesex Centre’s Ward 4, represented by Councillor Aina DeViet. She and I have been discussing various issues lately, especially once the snow started to fly. Below is an email I sent to her following the PPM on the upcoming subdivision and a few phone calls; an attempt to put my thoughts into words instead of just discussing things on the fly. She recently responded regarding snow removal, which is also below.

Given the upcoming municipal election, I would really like to hear from other citizens in Ward 4 (Komoka and Kilworth) regarding the issues below so that we can try and find some common ground leading up to October. These are purely my thoughts and do not reflect those of the Kilworth Ratepayers Association, though I am a participant. I don’t have all the answers, but I do feel it’s important to ask questions.

December 6, 2013

Hi Aina,

Thank you for calling me today! And I’m sorry this email is coming so late. I’ll do my best to be brief, and also offer some potential ideas/solutions for the issues I’m raising.

Snow Removal
You and I discussed this at length. My issues here are twofold:

  1. The quality of snow removal being performed.
  2. The lack of sidewalks being plowed.

The level of snow removal performed it, frankly, atrocious. Several cm of snow is routinely left on the road, causing almost as much trouble to drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists alike as if the snow were never plowed at all. I’m attaching two photos I took November 29, which is several days after a plow last came through Kilworth. I think you’ll instantly see what I’m referring to.

I know you’re looking into raising the issue once more to at least find out what it would cost to have sidewalks plowed. That’s great! And on that note, I would recommend that staff bring that report back and divide each road into primary, secondary, and tertiary roads. The reason for that is that it would probably be much easier to get sidewalks on primary roads (e.g. Jefferies Rd) and secondary roads (e.g. Stephen Moore Dr, Westbrook Dr) plowed, rather than all of them.

An extra hour or two and the sidewalk plow/snowblower that was out here could have had some secondary roads plowed, which also carry a decent amount of traffic each day. Just a thought.

Police
I know we talked about this today, but I wanted to put my thoughts a bit more succinctly.

I was rather mystified when I spotted 4 police officers all, seemingly, inspecting the roof of a home on Stephen Moore Dr in late August (I think it was August). Based on their demeanour, the home belonged to one of the officers present. This was late, probably around 10:30pm. What else could they have been doing instead of socializing?

Just a few weeks ago I came across something similar on Baron Cr. I was walking my dog, going north on Earlscourt Terrace in the afternoon when I saw 3 or 4 police cruisers parked in the driveway and on the road, with multiple police officers milling about fraternizing. It didn’t appear that they were responding to a call, but merely socializing.

Which brings me to my point: Does the OPP have too many officers for this area? I’m sure they have a formula of some kind that says they don’t, but the results appear to suggest otherwise. When I see several employees of any kind, at any organization, simply milling about in the middle of the day, the first thought that comes to my mind is, “Too many employees. Need to optimize that.” I know emergency services should be looked at differently, but in light of the recent negotiations, I think it’s time the OPP take a hard look at their own internal procedures and staffing ratios given the demographics of Middlesex Centre (and surrounding areas they serve).

Roads
Our roads are, for lack of a better word, unsafe. Referencing this Ontario Road Safety report from 2006, and then the most recent from 2009, a cursory glance will show you that Middlesex County experiences a large number of collisions every year, in no small part thanks to a fairly large and increasing number of them occurring in Middlesex Centre. I think much of those, anecdotally, can be tracked to a few causes:

  • Lack of lighting on major roads like Gideon Dr, Glendon Dr, Vanneck Rd, Coldstream Rd, etc.
  • Speed
  • Weather

Two of those we have little direct control over, especially weather (unless we plow the roads better than we do now). I would not, however, propose putting up streetlights down our major artery roads due to the costs involved. I will make a different suggestion though: mid-road reflectors.

I’ve driven down several 400-series highways that have small reflectors dug into the road every 10 dashes (the painted lane dashes) or so. I find these are extremely helpful at helping drivers understand where they are relative to their lane (as they are embedded between lanes), and at alerting drivers to turns/bends coming up in the road. I don’t know how much they cost, but I have to imagine they are far more cost effective than erecting streetlights, especially given that the reflectors aren’t powered.

I’d also like to suggest staff look at lowering speed limits within the villages by 10km/h pretty much across the board. As I said on the phone earlier, I find no reason people should be driving more than 50km/h in Kilworth, Komoka, Ilderton, etc. And when we’re still experiencing an influx of city drivers, I think it’s important to help imbue that village-feel in every way we can.

I don’t have them off-hand now, but I have read the results of several studies that show a speed limit decrease helps improve safety, and does not cause a huge effect in travel times (especially when you consider drivers are mostly making their way to a major artery, with an 80km/h speed limit, anyway).

There is simply too much at stake with elderly people, young children, and some intersections with very poor sight lines to allow for people to think they can drive almost 70km/h down Jefferies Rd. More annual safety reports here.

I will continue to keep tabs on council meetings and public notices, and will continue to send you my thoughts on these matters when I feel I have something to add. I’ll also be putting this letter online so that others in the area will, hopefully, feel emboldened to express their opinions to their Councillors too.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you or hear from you again soon!

Response from Councillor DeViet.

January 4, 2014

Re snow removal – see agenda items for General Committee for the coming meeting on January 8th. The status report indicates the current contract will be put out to tender next summer and Council will have a full discussion on this once we have have all the information; however, given the number of kilometers currently plowed versus the total the cost is expected to double.

I will be asking what the overall impact on taxes will be given we will be looking at a figure that may run between $56-92K once we hear results of the RFQ.

All for now,
Aina

Aina DeViet
Councillor Ward 4 Komoka-Kilworth
Municipality of Middlesex Centre
Tel: 519-657-3093
E-mail: deviet@middlesexcentre.on.ca

Kilworth PPM re: New Subdivision

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Last night about 30 members of the public and press arrived at the Coldstream Community Centre for the public participation meeting (PPM) about Kilworth’s new subdivision. This new subdivision is going to be built on farm land that’s owned by Don Black Investments, to the west of the existing settlement.

Kilworth's new subdivision

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Tom Albrecht was at the meeting representing Don Black Investments (or “the ownership group,” as Mr. Albrecht put it). Also attending was a group of four gentlemen from Stantec who were there to talk about the engineering, planning, and traffic aspects of the proposed site plan and rezoning.

kilworth-new-subdivision-site-plan

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The Stantec presentation is summed up as so:

  • Stantec believes the proposal matches provincial policies, the municipal master plan, and secondary Komoka-Kilworth plan
  • The proposed site plan has 391 single detached lots, two blocks for medium residential, and two blocks for village commercial
  • Minimum lot area is 577 m2 (or 5,200 ft2)
  • The Village Commercial portion exists to align with the secondary plan, as requested by council
  • The Master Plan calls for the possibility of a school in the area in the future, so the land has been set aside to allow for that
  • At this time neither school board has indicated they’re interested in purchasing that land
  • The walkways proposed, running right through the middle of the subdivision are about 14m wide (WOW!!), providing a massive trail for the municipality to do a myriad of things
  • Desired phases start from NW to SW, then SE to NE.
  • There is a small hump near the middle of subdivision that would allow for grading and some different house designs in that area, including walkouts and such
  • A new sewage pumping station would be built to the south on an adjoining piece of land
  • Stantec did “quick traffic review,” which reveals that most traffic would be coming from either Glendon Dr, Doan Dr, or Willard Cr
  • “Community desires” at previous consultations have indicated they would prefer less traffic flowing from the existing settlement, therefore Stantec cut off Daventry Way even though they can “think of much better things to do there instead of a cul-de-sac”

At this point municipal staff began reading written submissions into the record. Several issues were raised through the written submissions regarding the land to the south, especially by the current owners of that land. Unfortunately the staffer was speaking fairly quickly as the full written submissions will be included in the minutes — I’ll link to those once they’re up.

One person’s submission indicated they have no problem with cul-de-sac cutting off Daventry Way as long as services can still be extended through that area.

This is when things were opened up to the rest of the public and Council for questions.

Susan, who was sitting beside me, wanted to know how the new subdivision would affect the existing sewage treatment plant. Stantec’s response was that a new sewage treatment plant and stormwater pond would be built to the south of the subdivision, and therefore the new subdivision would have no impact at all on the existing facilities.

I made a comment regarding the cul-de-sac that would cut off Daventry Way, and thanking Stantec for mentioning it earlier. I stated that that road should be opened up as the portion of Kilworth I live in is already heavily segmented from the Willard Cr area, and further segmenting it is completely at odds with current urban planning/design trends promoting walkability and multi-modal transportation. The current site plan diverts traffic through Willard Cr and Doan Dr, while the odds of opening up Daventry Way greatly increasing traffic through the current “core” of Kilworth seems highly unlikely.

The owner of Garden Patch, a garden centre on Glendon Dr, wanted to find out how the new trails around the Wellness Centre would be connected to the new subdivision, especially given the amount of traffic on Glendon Dr. The response from Council was that we don’t know yet, but that Council is currently working with the County on that.

A woman wanted to know what sorts of traffic measures would be taken to ensure traffic got on/off Glendon Dr easily. A Stantec staff member said that initially they see auxiliary turning lanes being put in, and that down the line there will probably be a need for at least one set of lights in the area.

Frank Berze, Councillor for Ward 5 of Middlesex Centre, wanted to know more about the possibility of low-rise apartments on the northeast corner of the property. The response from Stantec was that the zoning change for that corner would allow for buildings up to 20m tall, meaning a building of up to 5 or 6 floors. The same zoning change would also allow for attached townhomes, condominiums, etc. much like those that currently exist on Enterprise Dr.

Ultimately market demand will likely dictate what gets built there, of course, assuming the zoning change is allowed.

A Councillor and member of the public wanted to know what might go up in the Village Commmercial zone. The answer was that Stantec had no idea, but that the zoning bylaw allows for just about any kind of business you can think of — restaurant, drive thru, club, stores, ground floor commercial with up to two floors of residential on top, gas bar, offices, etc.

This is when things got testy.

A gentleman that lives on Pheasant Trail objects to the idea of apartments being located in Kilworth because “they’ll eventually look terrible after a few years.” He said that his taxes have gone up 22% purely to pay for servicing new land, which Mayor Edmondson indicated is not true.

And it isn’t true. Development charges pay for servicing new land.

Anyway, this gentleman wanted to know what kind of assurances we would have that any apartment building that goes up won’t look horrible after a few years. After going on a small tirade at a Stantec staffer for “pursing his lips,” and then on about water/sewer charges and some other things, Mayor Edmonson got things back in check and told the man he would be happy to speak after the PPM.

Someone asked when construction will start. Mr. Albrecht said that everything still has to be approved, that Don Black Investments will have to address the concerns of various agencies, etc. So construction won’t start for at least a few years, maybe longer.

I had the last comment of the night after blanking earlier. 🙂 I raised an issue about the proposed construction phases, stating that I think existing citizens would like to see any disruption to the existing settlement happen earlier – get it over and done with on the east end, and then they can move west after that. The Mayor and several Councillors nodded their heads in agreement, with the Mayor saying, “I hear where you’re coming from.”

After that, there were no more questions, and the meeting was adjourned!

If you have any questions for me, please feel free to leave a comment below. The bottom line is that this new subdivision will go through and be built at some point. Whether the site plan stays as is or not, and when construction will start, is all still up in the air at some point. The family that owns the plot of land to the south has some big issues that need to be addressed, so it could still be, for all we know, another five years (or more!) before this gets moving.

Keeping Track of the Candidates (LKM)

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This Federal election, it’s easier than ever to keep track of what candidates are doing and saying. At least, it should be. Here in the riding of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, a mostly rural riding, it’s actually quite difficult to keep track of most of the candidates electronically. Of course you can purchase the Middlesex Banner or Strathroy Age Dispatch, but if you want real-time updates and don’t want to rely on /A\ Channel News possibly paying attention to the county, you have to rely on electronic methods.

As someone who is online throughout the day and evening, I thought I would help out my fellow LKMers by compiling a list of the candidates and how to keep track of them. The results were a bit disappointing.

Bev Shipley – Conservative Party Candidate

Gayle Stuck – Liberal Party Candidate

Joe Hill – New Democratic Party Candidate

Jim Johnston – Green Party Candidate

I must give props to Ms. Stucke for doing something different (BlackBerry Messenger Group) and Mr. Johnston for being available pretty much everywhere online. It’s disappointing that Mr. Hill and Mr. Shipley are making themselves scarce online.

If there are other parties you’d like me to dig up the information for, please let me know. I know of the Christian Heritage Party, and other fringe parties, but we all know they don’t get many votes. However, I will still dig up the information if you want me to.

Tomorrow I’ll post the information for Elgin-Middlesex-London.

* Updated April 26 with new information on Bev Shipley and Joe Hill.

UBB from Both Sides

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(Disclaimer: Much of the following blog post originates from emails exchanged with colleagues earlier this week. I’m going to re-format what I said as much as I can/need to so that it still makes sense without their replies. The following is all based on my own research and opinion.)

As someone who speaks to vendors of high tech equipment, and consumers of the same high tech equipment, several times a week, I feel I can bring somewhat unique insight into the usage-based billing (UBB) debate happening across Canada. I don’t think I’ll say anything spectacularly special here, but looking at the issue from both the telecom side (including both the business and technology) and the consumer side yields some key things that need to be considered.

  1. The CRTC is supposed to ensure a healthy level of competition amongst the industries it regulates. Moving from the current gateway access service (GAS) to only allowing smaller ISPs, essentially, to resell Bell’s existing packages at a 15% discount will easily put providers like TekSavvy and Primus out of business.
  2. Bell and Rogers laid their respective infrastructures in my neighbourhood when it was built, 13 years ago. Given the inherent oligopoly, I’m certain both companies have gotten a decent ROI by now. There are a few homes with wireless antennae on the roofs, mine included, that I believe are intended to be used with Execulink however I don’t believe anyone is using wireless at the moment.
  3. There have been no upgrades in my neighbourhood past the nodes since that time. In fact, Bell hasn’t upgraded anything other than laying down fibre and new DSLAMs in London in several years. The new Fibe service isn’t available in Kilworth or Komoka, and Bell can’t provide me with anything better than 6Mbps. And, I know from experience, that Bell throttles streaming video (legitimate or not) very harshly from 9am till 9pm (give or take an hour).
  4. Rogers cannot provide me with anything faster than 15Mbps. The bandwidth cap on this plan is 80GB (it was 95GB until just a few weeks ago). I went over my 60GB cap during my two most recent billing cycles. The problem: I use Primus TalkBroadband VoIP service instead of a traditional landline, and watch video from legitimate sources like ctv.ca, citytv.com, globaltv.com, treehousetv.com, etc.
  5. Bell’s net income last fiscal year was $1.738 billion, for a profit margin of 11.7%. Rogers’ net income last fiscal year was $1.478 billion, for a profit margin of 12.5%. Based upon typical standards of trying to achieve profit margins between 10 and 15%, it’s clear both companies are doing just fine.
  6. Claims that Rogers and Bell need to recoup the costs of their infrastructure investments are fine. As a business owner, I know companies exist in order to make money. What it sounds like many people don’t know is that Primus, TekSavvy, Execulink, et al all pay Bell for the privilege to resell their services to the tune of $15 per subscriber per month (I’ve received confidential data to confirm this). So even if Bell doesn’t have you as a customer directly, but you’re using DSL, Bell is making money off the infrastructure (a.k.a. copper phone lines) it delivered to your house with very few exceptions (areas served by Eastlink for example).
  7. Until recently, only Bell was mandated to allow resellers to use its infrastructure because a large portion of Bell’s “last mile” was paid for my Canadian taxpayer money. The inherent oligopoly that has existed in most areas since the dawn of cable, and in some areas it’s actually a monopoly (like Aylmer, ON where EastLink owns both the phone and cable infrastructures) allowed Bell and Rogers to simply charge whatever they wanted for high-speed access until the CRTC opened up Bell’s lines to everyone. If Rogers never started offering @Home, and then eventually its own high speed offering, Bell would effectively have a 100% market share on high speed internet wherever they own the phone lines.
  8. Middlesex County awarded Bell Aliant a contract several years ago to build up wireless internet capabilities all across Middlesex County. So here is an instance where Bell forked out very little cash, and will profit any time someone living in rural Middlesex County, where DSL and cable internet aren’t available, and sign up for wireless internet service instead. Bell is actually several years behind the curve, as EastLink (formerly known as Amtelecom, and also a former employer of mine) was rolling out wireless access across most of Elgin County back in 2001. Being a publicly traded company at the time, surely if Amtelecom felt they couldn’t make money off the wireless service they wouldn’t have bothered putting it up in the first place.

I have followed this issue (broadband speeds, infrastructure, and access in Canada) for over a decade already. One conclusion I have come to is that Bell and Rogers are not interested in keeping ahead of competitors (because there really aren’t any) or providing you with great service (especially Bell). Their only concerns are shareholders and the bottom line, period. Yes, I know that’s capitalism, but at the end of the day we’re all getting screwed. TekSavvy has indicated they’re going to start laying out their own infrastructure. Start Communications (based in London) already has fibre covering the downtown core, and has indicated they will be extending it as well. Unfortunately the edge of their fibre network still only supports 5Mbps speeds.

Don’t forget to look at places like Chattanooga, TN which has laid out its own fibre-to-the-home network across an area very similar to London’s geography (medium-sized city in the middle, lots of rural areas around it), and they’re providing great speeds at decent prices… synchronous 30Mbps for $57.99 per month, no caps. Amsterdam is laying a FTTH network that will be open access, and so is the entire nation of Australia. So Amsterdam/Australia will provide the network, à la Bell, and then let independent providers resell internet, phone and TV service on top of it. Brilliant, and you know there will be plenty of competition because Australia has actually paid Telstra AUD$43 billion to ditch their legacy copper network.

The internet services offered here in Canada suck, and UBB only makes it worse. We’re ranked 22nd in the world by the OECD… wait until the next ranking, I bet we’ll be ranked 40th or 50th.

Backing up a little bit, I know there are other fees that Bell and Rogers (along with other telcos in their respective areas of the country) have to fork out, like “right of way” fees that municipalities charge for telcos to have the privilege of laying their infrastructure down in our neighbourhoods, and putting up those ugly grey mini-towers all over the places. I will admit I don’t know as much about the “right of way” fees charged by various municipalities as others do, but until Bell/Rogers are more transparent about the types of fees they incur, and how these have to be passed onto the consumer, it’s hard for the average person to make up their own mind on whether it’s fair or not, isn’t it? And yes, of course there are operating costs.

Again, though… the net profits speak for themselves. Maybe dealing with Toronto and Hamilton is a logistical nightmare, but Bell and Rogers seem to be making a healthy profit margins. And then, of course, the premise of heavy bandwidth users needing to pay more than others has been given serious treatment, and determined to be false.

The reality is that UBB is a desperate attempt to keep people from further cutting their expenses, while shifting their video watching habits to web-based services. Instead of compete with Netflix, Rogers and Bell would rather gouge the average customer and prevent them from even using the web to watch video (again, legit or not) in the first place. I’m part of a minority that “cut the cord” 2 years ago. It isn’t easy, but it’s doable. I bet Rogers, Bell, Shaw and Cogeco are freaking out at the idea of consumers moving to Netflix.

But when you think about it, I’m using much of the same infrastructure Rogers actually puts into place to watch TV shows online, instead of via traditional cable. I’m really not using anymore bandwidth than I did before. At the end of the day, the same infrastructure that carries all these bits & bytes also carries voice and TV signals. It’s all data. Internet service fees are not the only way to recoup costs and generate a profit. This goes back to the same point many bloggers and columnists have made about getting to a realistic cost/profit number.

Hell, I’m probably using far less bandwidth than a traditional TV customer uses given the video quality actually available to me online. And I cause less bandwidth on the local head end (similar to a central office, but used to deliver video), instead pumping my traffic via fibre-optic lines between the servers located in Toronto (most likely given I typically only watch on Canadian websites) and Kilworth.

There are many reports that show people using their smartphones more and more, therefore cell phone towers, in lieu of their internet connections. Anyone who saw Cisco’s press release the other day about this would have seen the report, along with those produced by many other vendors and publications. If so many people are shifting their habits over the wireless access, why the huge change in our land-based internet access services?

I’m left asking myself… why UBB on internet services, but not on phone lines, cable, and satellite (especially the first two)? They use the same modern infrastructure to transfer the phone calls and TV shows we’re all watching.

Someone suggested to me that electricity rates were billed using a UBB scheme. True, but hydro is a bad analogy given the fact that we have to generate electricity and transport it to where it’s going to be used. Fibre optic lines are laid, connected to routers, and then sit there in anticipation of traffic. I remember someone telling me about all the dark fibre (a.k.a. unused) that Hamilton once laid in the hopes that businesses would flock there for the capacity. If that infrastructure is still there, then one big component of the capacity already exists.

Lastly, I’ll address the cost per GB sanctioned by the CRTC. $1.90 per GB, and $2.45 per GB in Quebec, is absolutely ridiculous. Hugh Thompson goes through much of the argument here, and he’s right. Even when you factor in all of the other costs associated with running this infrastructure, and then all of the other services that generate revenue from it, you’re left with the billions of dollars in profit that Bell and Rogers are generating.

So call/mail/email your MP, do the same for the CRTC commissioner representing your area of the country, and give them a piece of your mind (or mine). UBB is unnecessary, plain and simple.