Success Stories

Utility-Industry Partnership Is Building A Fibre Highway

Utilities Kingston is a key partner in building an advanced fibre-optic link between Montreal and Toronto that will power the local Kingston economy and attract new data-driven companies to the city.

Utilities Kingston has partnered with Metro Optic and Crosslake Fibre in a joint venture called Maple Leaf Fibre Ltd. to install a long-haul fibre optic link between Toronto and Montreal.  The system will have a high fibre count, will not follow any existing routes, and will yield critical performance benefits to carriers, data-centre operators, internet service providers, streaming services, cable companies and governments.

"It will provide our current customers much quicker and more stable internet access.  That is at the heart of strengthening our community's competitive advantage.  It's a great opportunity for our community and the entire surrounding area," said Utilities Kingston President and CEO Jim Keech.
 
The link will be underground between Montreal, Ottawa and Kingston and under Lake Ontario between Kingston and Toronto.  Utilities Kingston is a strategic investor, development partner and future customer.  The project has been in development since early 2018 and is estimated to be completed within 24 months.

Kevin McCauley, director of networking for Utilities Kingston, compares the new fibre optic link to building a second highway.  Where a highway may at times be prone to congestion and accidents that slow it down or close it, the new highway is a high-capacity corridor where the speed limit is 140 km/ hour and there are only a handful of entrances and exits.

"Just like a real highway, the cable's off-ramp to Kingston will bring all kinds of economic development with it.  Instead of gas stations, hotels and restaurants, it will bring data centres and their ecosystems."

About a half-dozen enterprise-class data centres have expressed an interest in locating in Kingston.
 
Utilities Kingston currently offers a managed service for large-scale broadband customers from Brockville to Napanee, including government, hospitals, school boards, colleges and universities.  The broadband service is symmetrical, meaning its upload and download speeds are equal.  That's important in business settings, which need to quickly deliver data to the internet, says McCauley.

Broadband is a growing segment for Utilities Kingston within a unique, single-service structure combining other essential services - water, wastewater, gas and electricity.  Utilities Kingston also operates municipal streetlights and traffic signals, and a water heater rental business.

The utility's board of directors challenged the leadership team two years ago to undertake a full-scale examination of its broadband service.  "They asked us to look at whether we still wanted to be in this business, whether there was too much competition, and whether the service was still required," said Keech.  "Depending on the answers, perhaps we would sell the assets and exit the business, or on the other hand, grow the business."

Utilities Kingston hired a third-party firm to conduct a market analysis.  "The report we got back was very energizing.  It demonstrated the need and that this was a business to stay in and grow."

The utility is now completing its plan to expand market share among institutional and large corporate customers, says Keech.

"We provide a very fast and reliable service to a sophisticated customer base.  We have state-of-the-art equipment because we are making constant investments to make sure we are ahead of everyone else."

Source: Perspective Kingston 2018