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Getting wired: a priority for town; Iroquois Falls explores high-speed fibre optic network. (Iroquois Falls: Special Report).

Iroquois Falls is examining the feasibility of developing a high-speed fibre optic network extending to every home, business and organization in the town.

The town currently has a maximum rate of 33.33 kilobytes per second, which cannot handle much more than e-mail.

Henry Morris, chair of the committee, says the town is "lagging behind" other communities competing for jobs in today's new economy because it does not have high-speed telecommunications.

Morris, a retired electrical engineer, says Abitibi-Consolidated Inc., the town's major employer, is paying approximately $2,000 per month for a leased-line service.

"Costs such as these have put high-speed telecommunication out of reach for small businesses and the average person in Iroquois Falls," Morris says.

A $90,000-FedNor grant has enabled the committee to hire a consortium of consultants who are studying telecommunications needs in Iroquois Falls. The consortium's report is expected by early summer, Morris says.

The committee will soon conduct a survey of every business and household to determine their telecommunication needs, and how much they are willing to pay for it. The survey will also include non-profit organizations such as hospitals and libraries.

The town has started investigating economic development opportunities that could result from high-speed telecommunications. The establishment of a call centre is one of the projects being examined.

"We have people attending call centre trade shows and conferences to learn more about the business," Morris says.

The committee saves money at the shows by utilizing the Northern development and Mines booth. The ministry offers its booth to all Northern Ontario communities that have limited financial resources, but want to attend.

Morris says Iroquois Falls could not handle a large call centre, but the town is ideally suited for a smaller call centre.

Iroquois Falls is primarily a French/English speaking community. This may still present some opportunities, Morris says, because there is the Quebec market and the New Brunswick market.

Another factor in Iroquois Falls' favour is its remoteness. Communities that have more than one call centre, such as Thunder Bay which has four, see competitors competing for trained staff.

The committee is looking at a number of other opportunities where high-speed telecommunication will be an advantage to residents and businesses.

Post-secondary educational opportunities exist. With larger bandwidth available to the home, residents could receive videoconferencing programs from any college or university around the country or world.
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Article Details
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Author:Lynch, Michael
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Previous Article:Northern Ontario post-secondary institutions.
Next Article:"Wake-up call" sparks strategy. (Iroquois Falls).

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