Stratford, Ont. mayor wows Berwick crowd at i-Valley event

Ashley Thompson athompson@hantsjournal.ca
Published on August 26, 2016

Dan Mathieson, the mayor of Stratford, Ont., impressed a crowd of about 30 Annapolis Valley-based municipal leaders and economic partners with his keynote speech at a Smart Annapolis Valley event hosted in the Berwick Fire Hall Aug. 25. Many of the elected officials in attendance told Mathieson they were inspired by his presentation outlining the benefits that came as a result of Stratford’s success in building a community-wide fibre network.

©Ashley Thompson

BERWICK -The mayor of a bustling Ontario town with enviable digital offerings likens fibre-optic infrastructure to sewer and water lines.

“It’s like running that sewer line out and getting that subdivision ten years later, or 20 years later,” said Stratford mayor Dan Mathieson, the guest speaker for a Smart Annapolis Valley event hosted at the Berwick Fire Hall Aug 25.

“Fibre networks today are the water lines, the sewers and the hydro wires that were once taken for granted. They’re the basis of how people are going to interact in the future.”

Mathieson would know.

“From 2001 to today, in a community that’s 12 square kilometres, we have over 80 kilometres of fibre laid,” he said.

“We built a ubiquitous Wi-Fi network over our entire city. We have 300 access points.”

From the fibre network came several of what Mathieson calls “unintended consequences.” New opportunities arose for the city with approximately 30,000 residents as news of Stratford’s connectivity capabilities spread.

RBC built a national date centre in Stratford that brings in $1.5 million in tax revenue annually, the University of Waterloo opened a Stratford Campus for digital media students and Starwood Hotels is now using the network to operate a distributive call centre that allows 50 employees booking reservations from around the world to take calls from home using voice over Internet connections.

“There will be employment come from fibre that you may never, ever see. You will never see a building, you will never see bricks and mortar, but you’ll know that people are employed,” said Mathieson.

Stratford, Mathieson added, can now compete with cities in the United States when attracting new businesses or hosting companies looking for test sites for leading-edge technology requiring high-level connectivity.

Addressing elected officials and economic partners from throughout the Annapolis Valley, Mathieson said enhancing the Valley’s fibre networks would create more opportunities to market the region as a great place to live - and work.

“You have the chance to be visionary here and build a fibre network,” he said, stressing that the benefits will come in time.

“You’re not doing it for today; you’re doing it for the future.”

The Valley Regional Enterprise Network teamed up with the i-Valley Intelligent Community Association to curate the event, which also touched on some broadband pilot projects planned as part of an i-Valley Smart Annapolis Valley initiative. 

Berwick Mayor Don Clarke, chairman of the Valley Community Fibre Network’s board, left Mathieson’s presentation with a better understanding of how to make the most of the VCFN’s fibre running from Halifax to Middleton.

“Having connectivity in your community draws people and businesses to your area,” said Clarke.

“People are looking for quality of life and we definitely have quality of life in spades. If you can also offer huge connectivity, then that’s a great way to perform an economic development function that could really be impactful for the whole Valley.”

Did you know?

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is conducting an analysis of network speeds at houses and businesses in the Annapolis Valley as part of an Internet heat map pilot project. The data collected will show where added infrastructure should be placed in order to enhance the Valley’s networks.

To learn more about how iValley is trying to transform the Annapolis Valley into a “smart region,” visit http://i-valley.ca.