IT IS THERFORE RESOLVED THAT the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association request that the Alberta Utilities Commission work proactively with wire service providers to develop a new regulated rate schedule for low wattage devices on streetlights.
WHEREAS many municipalities are seeking options to provide access to Wi-Fi in public places;
WHEREAS streetlights are one of the best option for affixing Wi-Fi access points, as they are ideally located for the provision of Wi-Fi in public places and for maintenance of devices;
WHEREAS the Alberta Utilities Commission is responsible for approving rate schedules that include a minimum charge to cover the costs of transmission and distribution;
WHEREAS currently the default approach for wires service providers is to apply a “small general service rate” to any device attached to streetlights that usually includes a rate minimum for demand that far exceeds the demand of the device; and
WHEREAS Wi-Fi access points only use approximately 2 to 20 watts, whereas rate minimums range from approximately 3kW to 5kW.
In 2017, the Town of Taber wished to implement Wi-Fi in its downtown core using new technology that used minimal power. The streetlights in the community would be the logical choice to place the Wi-Fi extenders, however the municipality was faced with usage rates that constituted a 3 kilowatt minimum charge per device per month, despite the devices only using 2.5 watts each per month. The power these Wi-Fi extenders consumed constituted only 0.5% of the mandatory 3kW rate charge minimum. Devices that would have cost only a few cents would have been regulated to cost exponentially more. The Town of Taber found the minimum rate structure to be cost prohibitive to the project, and had to create public-private partnerships with local businesses to supply power to the devices instead of using municipal infrastructure. Had those partnerships not been sought, the project would not have been implemented, meaning a loss of service and innovation to our community.
A neighbouring community (Vauxhall) was faced with the same regulated minimum rate structure and ultimately deemed the project too cost prohibitive to continue.
The current minimum rate structure does not reflect the innovation and efficiency in modern technology. Many devices, including Wi-Fi repeaters, use minimal electricity for their functions. Municipalities are therefore faced with choosing either fiscal responsibility or service implementation. This dilemma also prohibits increased innovation in Alberta municipalities who may wish to test new technologies that utilize insignificant amounts of electricity. As technology continues to develop and become more energy-efficient, the current minimum rate will become even more disparate to the actual use of electricity for such devices.
This proposed resolution seeks to add a new regulated rate that charges a much lower fee to reflect emerging technologies’ minimal usage of power. This will allow municipalities to implement services and innovating technologies without the burden of added costs.
The Alberta Utilities Commission recommended that we may want to consult with the distribution utilities prior to them making submissions to raise the possibility of a new rate class.
- Resolution sent to the Alberta Utilities commission and cc’d to Minister of Service Alberta. AUMA has had some exploratory conversations with Fortis about the potential to develop a new rate schedule that would be presented to the AUC or could be done within the bounds of the current rules.