The City of Brandon is in talks with private sector companies to run a high-speed fibre-optic line to the north fringe of the city in an effort to beef up the airport’s "severely limited" connectivity.
The $800,000 plan includes digging a trench from downtown, along First Street to the Brandon Municipal Airport to bring more of a robust connection to the facility.
No timeline has been established, but city manager Scott Hildebrand said the city is in talks with both MTS, Westman Communications Group and other companies to share the cost of the project.
In the wake of verbal support for airport expansion from Premier Greg Selinger and Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire last week, Hildebrand said the city hopes to tap into the federal government’s 10-year, $14-billion New Building Canada Fund for the fibre-optic project.
Since Internet and broadband is included in the list of eligible projects under the federal government’s infrastructure fund, the city plans to lump it in the airport development plan, which will cost about $6 million, including the new line.
The city was going to go ahead with the project anyway after council tentatively approved the 2014 budget earlier this year, but since the federal and provincial government’s have said they’d like to see the airport redeveloped, it plans to take advantage of that.
"What we’d like to do is add in this fibre project as well and do it all under the Canada Building Fund," Hildebrand said.
The city decided it would provide funds for the project, rather than wait to see if or when an Internet provider would install the service after a lengthy debate in January.
According to Hildebrand, the airport’s connection is "maxed out" and the broadband line is essential to the airport’s renewal to attract more flights.
"We’re at such a capacity, we can’t even add another phone line in," Hildebrand said. "The building itself is just maxed out."
Right now, the airport is wirelessly connected to the city’s network.
Since WestJet’s terminals run web-based programs, Hildebrand said there’s a risk the airline could lose connectivity, which would cause domino-effect delays for the Calgary-based airline.
"We want to make sure the services we’re providing to WestJet are consistent," he said.
"As we expand that airport, we simply can’t run it with Wifi connections."
Once the connection is established, Hildebrand said residents in the area can tap into the connection as well.
The province also announced it will pave the Brandon Municipal Airport access road.
» Twitter: @grjbruce