On Wednesday, the government of British Columbia announced a 10-year contract with Telus that is worth $100 million. The deal means that Telus will provide government telecommunications services and expand Internet and broadband services to rural communities throughout the province.
Specifically, the Telus deal means that the telecom giant will provide long-distance, voice, data, and cell phone services to the provincial government, BC Hydro, WorkSafeBC, the BC Lottery Corporation, ICBC, and six regional health authorities.
In exchange for the opportunity to provide those services, Telus is on the hook for a pile of upgrades:
- Internet access upgrades to high-speed fibre optics for 450 schools
- Internet bandwidth upgrades to up to 10 times the current speeds in 119 communities
- Cell phone coverage creation along more than 1,700 kilometres not currently in service
- $80 million in a “strategic investment fund” to improve service to government, families and businesses in the province
The provincial government is getting a “bundle deal” of sorts with the contract. By putting together nine contracts that cover multiple government agencies, the province claims that it can save $400 million over the course of a decade.
The provincial government first put out a call for services in 2008. The attempt to sign a new wireless contract hasn’t been without its political detractors, of course, as some believe that the relationship between the provincial government and Telus is a little too comfy.
“When we see a long-term process negotiating nine individual service packages suddenly expanded at the last minute and morphed into a form only Telus can satisfy, it really does spring even further question as to whether the benefit is going to a company and supporter that has been loyal to the premier and the BC Liberals,” said NDP critic Doug Routley.
The government claims that Telus is the only company that can handle the breadth of the contract’s requirements. Other companies have 14 days to file an objection to the contract, but there’s been no word from the usual suspects as of yet.
“We’re very confident the costs are reasonable when you consider the benefits B.C. will receive,” said Kim Henderson, deputy minister of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government.
According to the particulars, the contract will expand broadband access from covering 93 percent of British Columbians to 97 percent.