The Town of Vermilion was the first place in Canada to have new Hook’d technology installed, offering free wifi during the Vermilion Fair.
Hook’d was invented by Jeremy Fried, and each pod covers 2,000 metres and is able to hold 1,800 devices. They are also able to overlap and draw from underused areas to support overused areas.
“As a community, we are now saying broadband is a utility, and we want to start making it affordable. It is critical for business and for education,” said Mayor Caroline McAuley.
Through Taylor Warwick, the Town of Vermilion examined what is existing in the region, and to encourage rural economic development, HUB hosted a Digital Futures meeting in Vermilion last year. It was there town representatives met Brent Grisdale from Rigstar. Around June 20, they met with Brent and Merle Isaacson from Connect Mobility to discuss the latest technology versus what they were getting from existing telecoms. Around July 9, they met the consultant from Taylor Warwick and began planning for the fair; the idea was to use it as a test pilot for businesses.
“I didn’t even know if this was possible in this timeline. There are some things we can control, and some things we can’t,” said Brent Grisdale.
Brent and Merle came from the Calgary area, and Jeremy came from Las Vegas along with COO Ella Wayne from Las Vegas and Jimmy Sheffield for engineering from Austin, Texas. The Town of Vermilion worked with representatives to have two units installed on the fairgrounds; one was located on the grandstand and one on the arena. Two additional units had been damaged in shipping and were unable to be used. The group also had additional challenges with the weather and with Shaw not providing the 1G specified, at times they were only receiving 20 MB. They described that this would not be an issue if chosen as a permanent broadband solution in Vermilion with each pod having fibre running directly to it. They also noted that funds would stay local, unlike with shareholders for companies, and that with this new technology the Town would be able to provide better service and that upload and download speeds would be equal.
“Thank you for bending over backwards, for going over and above, and for believing we could make this work. It will test the products here in Vermilion, and is a more affordable and viable solution for our community. It could revolutionize northeastern Alberta,” said Mayor McAuley.
“There are no national or provincial strategic broadband plans and grant money is now being withheld. Every day that they don’t come up with a system, we are going to be losing communities, people, and businesses. We are at a disadvantage to urban centres and are getting caught in the bureaucracy of indecision. As a result, we were so excited to try this!” said Councillor Robert Pulyk.