«Delivered to | Northern Communications Information Systems Working Group c/o Government of Yukon Delivered by | Nordicity Date | Foreword The Project ...»
The Alaska Broadband Task Force has declared in its 2013 Blueprint for Alaska’s Broadband Future that any regional projects funded through its plan shall rely on public private partnerships (PPP) and emphasize market competition. By contrast, the Government of Greenland has legislated a regional monopoly through its wholly owned carrier Tele Greenland.
The resulting operational model in Greenland has emphasized basic service parity between Greenland’s rural and urban communities, while enabling the delivery of higher tier broadband services and competition where populations warrant capital investment.
In Canadian regions the desired operational models may be diferent. For example, the Province of Alberta undertook a PPP with companies Bell and Axia to develop the rural Alberta SuperNet fbre-optic network. The province specifed in advance that its ministry, Service Alberta, would oversee and have a right to intervene in the business of SuperNet’s private sector partners, including ensuring that SuperNet backbone pricing was uniform across the province to beneft rural users. It implemented a policy of uniform pricing to encourage access level competition at the rural frst mile (which now has 93 service providers in 2013).
AN OPERATIONAL MODEL SPECIFIES HOW OWNERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT OF PROPOSED
INFRASTRUCTURE IS TO BE ACHIEVED, AND DEFINES THE WORKING RELATIONSHIPS AND
BOUNDARIES BETWEEN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE INTERESTS.Service Alberta also has a broader mandate to develop strategies, policies and service delivery practices for maximizing and standardizing the use of information and communications technology (ICT) across provincial government sectors. In addition to its mandate to support rural Internet access, Service Alberta uses SuperNet as a mechanism to implement its function as a systems integrator of IT services across Alberta government sectors.
We raise examples of best practice jurisdictions – in particular Alaska, Greenland, and Alberta, which have similar challenges to provide perspective on the kinds of operational policies that need to be clarifed prior to accepting a vendor’s project proposal. These examples refect diferent geographic, political, and economic contexts including vastly diferent population densities and clusters. Operational models will therefore need to sufciently address the various constraints of each project region. (See diagram below).
Figure : Defning the Operational model for each Regional Project
1 Sufcient operational criteria must be established for each regional project the Broadband Implementation Task Force invests in. They should be considered ahead of the RFP process but may not be fully clarifed until after further rounds of engagement with vendors through an RFI or RFEI (elaborated upon below).
Clarifying an operational model requires input from the private sector. From its inception the Alaska Broadband Task Force has included direct participation from Alaska’s major carriers and technology vendors. By contrast, the Greenlandic telecommunications company, TELE Greenland, is wholly owned by the Government of Greenland. In Alberta, Service Alberta works closely with its private sector partners (Bell and Axia), but on the basis of contractual relationships. Such degrees of public-private engagement may or may not be desired in Canada’s
Arctic, however, it is suggested that:
2 Each Project Gating committee should undertake preliminary informal consultations with current and potential operators on technology options and preferred operational models to meet enhanced service levels.
More formal RFI and RFP processes would be conducted with market operators and prospective vendors as described below.
The operational model for each regional project may also require clear guidelines for local community and Aboriginal participation (including Inuit birthright organizations), particularly if First Mile or e-Community initiatives are to be included in project developments. Roles for local communities and Aboriginal organizations may vary and include, e.g., project investment and infrastructure ownership opportunities, participation in project construction phases, and participation in resulting services development and delivery opportunities, and so forth. Not all communities want or have the capabilities to participate equally in project developments. It is
3 Each Project Gating committee should conduct a preliminary consultation with communities and Aboriginal stakeholders to assess potential interest in First Mile and related initiatives.
Clarifying the operational model also includes clarifying the regulatory context. It is suggested
4 Each Project Gating committee should conduct a preliminary informal consultation with CRTC ofcials on regulatory options for promoting enhanced connectivity (e.g., conditions of licence, non-discriminatory access to facilities, funding, etc.).
At this early pre-implementation stage it may be enough to simply check in with CRTC ofcials so that they are made aware of eforts to initiate a regional project. Deeper discussions about regulatory implications should occur more broadly at a pan-territorial level through the Oversight committee (see Recommendation 4 below). When all the Project Gating committee’s requirements are satisfed, the regional project has achieved its frst critical milestone to transcend the pre-implementation phase.
5 Milestone: Each regional project should proceed to implementation after achieving its specifc fnancial objectives and a satisfactory conclusion of relevant project gating activities.
3. IMPLEMENTATION COMMITTEE
TO FORMALLY ASSESS RELEVANT MARKET IMPACTS, AND SEEK OUT POTENTIAL SYNERGIES WITH
SERVICE PROVIDERS AND COMMUNITIES.The RFI is intended to formally assess relevant market impacts on or by each project’s implementation activities, and seek out potential synergies with service provider projects that may occur parallel to the proposed regional project. The Broadband Implementation Task Force must grant the Engagement group specifc authorities and information gathering powers – under its joint federal and pan-territorial mandate - to efectively engage operators and other relevant private sector stakeholders for the purposes of acquiring strategic market information not currently available to the public or through informal channels. The suggested action steps
are as follows:
1 Establish a clear understanding of the Arctic incumbent’s modernization plan as it pertains to the deployment of new infrastructure capable of meeting or exceeding the recommended standards in target region(s).
2 Establish a clear understanding of all relevant satellite carriers’ present and future commitments to Arctic communications infrastructure in target region(s). Discuss state of satellite carrier options and agreements with relevant operators. Clarify current and future role of any benefciary agreements via relevant federal funding programs such as the Infrastructure Canada/Industry Canada National Satellite Initiative and C-Band Public Benefts.
3 Establish a clear understanding of any new carrier initiatives that may have impacts on the implementation of new infrastructure to meet or exceed the recommended standards in target region(s), including international/interterritorial fbre projects.
4 Establish a clear understanding of the implications of connectivity projects (e.g. new fbre routes) south of the 60th parallel that may have impacts on the implementation of new infrastructure to meet or exceed the recommended standards in target region(s).
In addition to its RFI, the Engagement group needs to engage its project region’s relevant NGOs, community development corporations, and community leaders to understand their role(s) in prospective or current connectivity initiatives, including broader programs that may have an impact on afordability and user uptake of new infrastructure services in the
target region. The suggested action steps are to:
5 Establish a clear understanding of any current or prospective First Mile activities developing in target region(s), (e.g., including community fbre initiatives such as in Hay River/K’atl’odeeche First Nation).
6 Explain project implementation activities to community stakeholders in target region(s), and connect activities and the Broadband Implementation Task Force’s mandate with any existing regional connectivity initiatives and themes (e.g., Nunavut Broadband Development Corporation, Community Access Program in Nunavut, digital literacy programs, etc.).
7 Engage key Aboriginal stakeholder groups in target region(s) on the potential for participating in implementation activities, including possible First Mile and e-Community initiatives.
8 Develop research relationships to establish needs assessments of future demand – afordability, price sensitivity and benefts. The formative work at this juncture of each regional project would contribute to the long term evaluation work required after new infrastructure enters service, as discussed in Recommendation 4 below.
WITH SUPPORT FROM THE SELECTION ADVISORY GROUP THE TASK FORCE WILL ASSESS
PROPOSALS BASED ON ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA.While the relevant Engagement activities are undertaken for each regional project, the Implementation committee forms a Selection Advisory group. This activity could take efect parallel to the Engagement group’s RFI process, or follow suit, depending on the information needs and confdence of the Implementation committee.
Membership in the Engagement and Selection Advisory groups can overlap according to the availability of resources and expertise, and what may be in the best interests of members. Members of earlier Project Gating committees should also be free to participate in implementation activities as required. Their knowledge will help the Selection Advisory group develop a clear understanding of its particular regional project’s preferred operational model, including the preferred roles of government(s) and private sector partners in PPPs or other joint funding agreements, First Mile initiatives, and forth. Sufcient clarity may not however be possible until an additional Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) is undertaken.
Activity 3.2. Out of each regional project’s specifc Implementation committee a Selection Advisory group emerges to organize a formal Request For Proposals (which could be in the form of an initial RFEI, a narrower Request for Qualifcations (RFQ), or some other preferred vehicle depending on the committee’s relative information needs and confdence in the results of prior Project Gating and Engagement activities.).
The Selection Advisory group must be empowered by the Broadband Implementation Task Force to undertake such formal processes as required. The RFP initiates a project proposal sequence for vendors to express an interest, submit qualifcations, and ultimately to propose the development of new infrastructure that meets the committee’s specifcations and mandated service standards. The Selection Advisory group should include technical staf that can provide judicious advice on the relative strengths and weaknesses of vendor qualifcations and project bids. If an RFEI is used to gather information from prospective vendors, the selection process will then be narrowed further to an RFQ or other relevant vehicle as required.
1 The Selection Advisory group should have capacities and authorities to administer the RFP(s) and weigh the potential advantages of proposals with respect to their project’s preferred fnancing structure (including joint procurement between federal, territorial, Aboriginal, and/or other relevant stakeholder groups).
Ultimately it is the Broadband Implementation Task Force’s decision to select a winning proposal.
The decision process can be broken down into the following recommended action steps: