October 16, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

Lighting up Sea to Sky 

Olympic fibre network could help lure high tech industry


In less than six months the Olympics and Paralympics will be in the history books and the question of how to best use the legacies of the Games will take centre stage.

Some legacies are more obvious than others. The cross-country ski trails at Whistler Olympic Park are already being put through the paces by a large number of Nordic skiers from Vancouver to Pemberton, the Olympic downhill runs will be used by skiers and snowboarders like always and the Whistler Sliding Centre could double as a tourist thrill-ride as well as a training centre for athletes. In September, over 1,000 Whistler residents will move into their new homes at Cheakamus Crossing and the sports centre there will be open to visiting teams and the public. The highway will function as it always has, only better, and the Medals Plaza will become a community amenity and gathering spot.

Less obvious is what will become of the massive communications legacy of the Games, which includes everything from wireless installations to cell towers and especially the fibre optic network installed by Bell Canada - part of their $200 million sponsorship commitment to the Games.

Not only will the line increase competition and choice for Sea to Sky residents, it could also provide a competitive edge to luring high tech industries to the corridor. While networks in some urban areas are struggling to meet demands at peak hours, the addition of Bell Canada's fibre line to sparsely populated Sea to Sky provides so much extra capacity to the region and by so many degrees of magnitude over what's currently available, that high tech firms are bound to take notice.


It's getting crowded out there...

A few years ago senior Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens became an international laughing stock when he proclaimed that "the Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled. And if they are filled, when you put your message in it gets in line, and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of materials..."

My personal favourite mockery is the DJ Ted Stevens Remix: "A Series of Tubes" on YouTube.com, although you don't have to look very hard to find inspired netizen efforts to mock an 83-year-old man's attempt to explain why it took several hours for a Senate aide to send an e-mail - he adorably called it an "Internet" - to Senator Stevens's computer one room over.

The Senator was ostensibly making a point in the larger battle over Net Neutrality, and how bandwidth is ultimately a limited resource that can be used up. More likely Mr. Stevens was actually speaking on behalf of telecom companies who have been lobbying the government for the ability to charge web hosts and users for how much bandwidth they use instead of the usual monthly flat rate for service - something groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation claim is tantamount to censorship, and that will make it almost impossible for smaller websites, commercial or otherwise, to reach a wider audience. Under Ted Stevens's scenario the EFF believes only the largest companies with the deepest pockets would be able to afford bandwidth, and would dominate the once democratic online world.

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