And then there were two.
That’s the number of Internet service providers who are installing kilometres of fibre optic cable in Chatham-Kent. Homegrown TekSavvy has shovels in the ground, joining Bell Canada running fibre in the municipality.
TekSavvy, like Bell, is working with the Municipality of Chatham-Kent to develop a high-speed fibre broadband network here. TekSavvy plans to connect more than 38,000 residences and businesses in the region, starting in Chatham with plans to expand to Blenheim, Ridgetown, Tilbury, and Wallaceburg.
For the past two decades, TekSavvy, Canada’s largest independent Internet service provider, has provided Canadians with telecom services. The company is headquarted here in Chatham.
Marc Gaudrault, CEO of TekSavvy, said planning for this began more than 18 months ago, and work is underway.
“We already have built out some fibre. We had our first fibre-to-the-home customer lit up back in December. The first business was lit up a couple of months ago,” he said. “We’ll have a number of additional homes coming online in the next couple of months, and the bulk of the work will be completed in the next 12 to 18 months.”
TekSavvy intends to invest up to $26 million over 18 months in the development of its fibre network.
The municipality intends to invest $6.5 million to facilitate an open-access fibre backbone connecting communities in Chatham-Kent.
Chatham-Kent CAO Don Shropshire said he is heartened that this local company is working with the municipality in its goal to bring advanced communications services to the community.
As to why lay fibre optic cable in Chatham-Kent, Gaudrault said the idea makes sense.
“We’ve been here for 20 years. It’s our head office. We’ve had hundreds of employees here for a long time. It just makes sense for us to lay fibre in Chatham,” he said.
While Bell announced in May it will lay more than 270 kilometres of fibre cable, Gaudrault said TekSavvy will lay its own rather than seek to piggyback off the Bell cable.
“We’re laying our own fibre. We’ve had this in the works for more than a year and a half,” he said. “We have roughly 100 businesses that we have connected fibre to and I think 100 homes. We have another 1,100 in the works over the next few months.”
Gaudrault added the improved Internet connections are good news for all facets of life, for homes and businesses.
“Bringing ultra high-speed Internet to Chatham-Kent will help transform C-K as a whole. As a father, for my daughters, they’re growing up here. We need this. This is where the world is going,” he said. “As a business owner, we serve the majority of customers from Chatham, so it’s needed.”
Gaudrault believes the fibre system, which will offer speeds of up to 1 Gbps, will also draw families and businesses to the municipality.
“It’s attractive to businesses knowing they have access to the fastest onramp there is. It’s pretty incredible,” he said. “It’s part of what goes into a strong, sustainable community.”