Evidence of meeting #92 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was spectrum.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Steven Finlayson  NetWisper Inc.
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Michel Marcotte
Brent Grisdale  Founder and Vice-President Business Development, Rigstar Industrial Telecom

February 1st, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Thank you. I'd like to thank both gentlemen for coming out today and speaking to us.

Mr. Grisdale, first of all I want to say thank you to Rigstar, because I used your facilities many times over the years as I travelled through northern British Columbia and Alberta in my different occupations. I always looked for where you guys were because I knew I could get out and talk to somebody, so thank you for that. I know that you do have a specialty in that line.

A number of counties have submitted briefs in response to this study because they're very concerned about their coverage for the residents in their communities. One solution—and I think you spoke briefly on this—is for the municipalities or the counties to build their own infrastructure, which takes a fair amount of money. Maybe they can get part of that, as somebody said earlier, through infrastructure grants and, instead of building roads, build towers or systems.

Here's my question for you, sir. You talked about private industry doing that versus the counties and said that you didn't think it would be economically feasible for private industry. I wonder if you could just expand on it a little more. I know that in some areas such as Parkland County, on the eastern side of my riding, we've had companies come in. They offer a service with so many megabytes, and that's great until they load the system down with so many customers to try to make them pay for it that the only time you get those megabytes is at about four o'clock in the morning, and then hopefully you're the only one on it.

I wonder if you could expound on that and see whether you think it would more viable for the counties or municipalities to do it as an infrastructure-type program or more viable for private industry.

Thank you, sir.

3:50 p.m.

Founder and Vice-President Business Development, Rigstar Industrial Telecom

Brent Grisdale

Sure. To address your last point first, that's what happens when you invest in a technology and then the technology goes past, but you don't have the capital dollars recovered from the technology to be able to invest back into the technology to give the service. I will spare the federal government any rants on the Alberta SuperNet, and we'll just move on from there.

There has been discussion, and it has been acknowledged that high-speed Internet connectivity is a utility as opposed to a service. When we use terms like “utility” or “private company”, we say that a utility is a group of people that acknowledges that this is a fundamental service in order to exist, co-operate, or participate within the economy of the area. The government acknowledges that and then says, “Okay, private industry might not be able to afford it, and that's where we step in.”

Why I think counties are a good place to start for the investment of these capital dollars is what we've seen in the United States, with the threat to net neutrality, with the inability to have privacy and your private information. At what level do you want to have that privacy, that control of the network, and that infrastructure in the hands of the people? In the remote communities, my view is that if you want to successfully transfer all of those economic benefits to rural ridings, that rural riding itself—the county, whatever it is—has to be in control of the technology, with the support of the government agencies, both federal and provincial.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Okay.

How's my time going?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Dan Ruimy

You have about two minutes.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

I have another technical question for you.

3:55 p.m.

Founder and Vice-President Business Development, Rigstar Industrial Telecom

Brent Grisdale

Please say something about spectrum.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Okay. About four years ago, I was watching a fracking operation just below the Fox Creek area. Rigstar was providing the communications. I was thoroughly amazed that as we were trying to drop a plug 3,500 feet below ground, working in conjunction with people in Calgary at a remote site, everything was instantaneous. There was no lag—because there's no room to lag, as you're fully aware.

Then I go and look at a community in my northwestern area, Grande Cache, which I think you're quite familiar with, and the poor town can't get more than two megabytes. How do you accomplish what you accomplish in your remote sites? For those who've never been able to see that done, it is outstanding.

3:55 p.m.

Founder and Vice-President Business Development, Rigstar Industrial Telecom

Brent Grisdale

Thank you very much. Because this is being recorded, I think the more times we can say “Rigstar”, the better.

3:55 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Well, you're wearing their shirt—

3:55 p.m.

Founder and Vice-President Business Development, Rigstar Industrial Telecom

Brent Grisdale

I know.

Well, you know what? That's simply a function of money, isn't it? Right?

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Yes.

3:55 p.m.

Founder and Vice-President Business Development, Rigstar Industrial Telecom

Brent Grisdale

The ability to provide remote communications is there. Can a farmer out in Grande Cache afford the bandwidth? The bandwidth is the issue. I can go outside Grande Cache and do that same service for that same fracking company—no problem. If you want one megabyte, 10 or 20 megabytes, or up-and-down streaming, I can do that, because they have the money.

The value to them of having that information instantaneously is critical, because a mistake could mean millions and millions of dollars. Then you go to Grande Cache residents and they say, “I don't know if I should pay $79.95 a month.” There's a dichotomy between the two, of course. For private industry to work, no matter what it costs, they'll pay for it. It's not that Grande Cache doesn't have access to fibre. If I'm not mistaken, fibre runs right through the middle of Grande Cache all the way up to Grande Prairie, so the infrastructure is there.

I'll give you an example: the town of Wandering River on the way up to Fort Mac. I got a job at Wandering River to provide a camp with Internet. There were 20 people. I gave them 100 meg service, up and down. It was a kilometre outside of the town of Wandering River. That service was backhauled over the Alberta SuperNet. I knew that the forestry was there and I could do that work. For the town, a mile down the road and with more than three separate fibre companies running fibre up to Fort Mac—Shaw, Telus, Bell, and the Alberta SuperNet—in the ditch, they couldn't get a megabit of service in town. The service was provided by an antenna that was five kilometres outside of town, beaming in an old-technology wireless service.

It's not that the infrastructure isn't in existence and that the infrastructure isn't there; it's that the infrastructure is owned by private entities, and in order for them to bother with Wandering River, they would have to go to the handhole that is 500 metres outside of town and do 10,000 dollars' worth of work, but there are only 40 people in Wandering River.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Thank you. I think we've run out of time. I'm getting a—

4 p.m.

Founder and Vice-President Business Development, Rigstar Industrial Telecom

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Dan Ruimy

Yes, you're just a bit out of time.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Thank you. I wanted you to say that about the technology.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Dan Ruimy

Yes, that's why I let it go, because it was pertinent.

Mr. Masse, you have seven minutes.

4 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker—or Mr. Chair.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Dan Ruimy

Yes, I got promoted.

4 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Yes, a little promotion: there you go.

Even in the city where I'm from, Shaw at one point wanted $10,000 for our cable access for satellite into a new plaza right in the middle of the city of Windsor, because we were the first customer that wanted it, so I get some of that.

To go right to the spectrum auction, here's what I want to hear from both of you. What do you want out of this next spectrum auction that's coming up? I mean, this is the public's entity. The spectrum is no different than other public assets. Unfortunately, we've seen it auctioned off by successive governments, which have received billions of dollars of revenue, and we still have the same problem we've had in the past. We've said that it's a national goal to have broadband across this country. We've received billions of dollars, with upwards of almost $10 billion in revenue coming in from that direct sale, yet we still have the same problem. What do you think should happen in this next spectrum auction that's coming up?

That's for either one of you.

4 p.m.

Founder and Vice-President Business Development, Rigstar Industrial Telecom

Brent Grisdale

Who were you asking?

4 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

It's for both of you.

4 p.m.

Founder and Vice-President Business Development, Rigstar Industrial Telecom

Brent Grisdale

Why don't you go first? I have a tendency to run on.

4 p.m.

NetWisper Inc.

Steven Finlayson

Spectrum is a huge issue. Licensed spectrum would be nice. It's really costly in Canada compared to in the U.S., for example. It's beyond our means at this point, since we are a start-up company, but if we can widen the current five gigahertz, I know there are other areas where we could sneak around the limitations of 4.9 up to the 6.1. There is the 3.65, which is licensed but easy to get a licence for. So yes, spectrum would be awesome, because it's such a busy environment we work in.