Months ago, Mountain View Credit Union (MVCU) employees were asked, "do you know of any innovative companies who bank with us? We would like to feature them in an upcoming publication." One employee in Olds suggested they feature O-NET for leading the way for community-owned Internet, phone, and TV services.
Alberta is a fantastic place to live and work. Countless organizations throughout our province are confirming that hard work and innovation will always be the Albertan way. Bank of Each Other showcases a special few, and we are thrilled to be nominated and featured.
Mountain View Credit Union's support for out-of-the-box ideas has allowed O-NET to grow exponentially year over year. O-NET's vision of installing a fibre-to-the-premise network and offering the fastest Internet in Canada is no longer a concept. We are lighting the way for any municipality that wants to follow in our footsteps. O-NET believes communities must be able to ensure quality Internet access to its residents and reap the benefits from it. The residents of Olds, and the staff at Mountain View Credit Union, continually support us in making this a reality.
There’s something underfoot in the town of Olds, Alberta that belies its sleepy, prairie town appearance. It’s data, and plenty of it, traveling across strands of fibre through the town’s Fibre-to-the-Premise network.
Olds is the unlikely home to Canada’s fastest Internet service; gigabit-per-second access and free Wi-Fi in many public areas. It’s an unexpected resource for a rural community that’s the result of uncommon vision, a unique business model and outside-the-box financial support, says Nathan Kusiek, director of marketing for Olds’ community-owned service provider.
In 2003, the members of the not-for-profit Olds Institute for Community and Regional Development realized the town would have trouble attracting and keeping businesses in town without adequate bandwidth.
The institute secured a $2.5 million grant from the provincial government, a $6-million loan from the town and a financial partnership with the local credit union to build a fibre optic network. When large telecommunication providers declined invitations to sell their services on the network, the institute created O-NET to provide the service.
Today, O-NET has 24 employees and provides affordable television, telephone and Internet services, all with local tech support and customer service. O-NET has become a catalyst for growth in the community, supporting Olds College, local businesses and the town.
“Being community owned means we think about being profitable, but we prioritize what’s best for the community,” says Kusiek. It’s a mandate reflected in the values of the credit union where O-NET turns for partnership and financial services.
“Our credit union is an important part of our business because they take the time to understand what we’re doing,” says Kusiek. “(O-NET) is a social venture so it doesn’t fit easily into a bank’s standard loan criteria. Our credit union sits down with us and really (makes an effort) to understand our value.”