As municipal candidates begin positioning about crossings, casinos and airports, an important gap in the City of Kingston’s ability to make ‘Innovation Thrive’ needs to be given significantly more attention. Making sure that Kingstonians are connected to the rest of the world through highly available and reliable internet access is becoming increasingly more important. Our ability to attract new businesses to Kingston will depend on us having a technological backbone which will allow businesses to compete in a global economy.
My company recently conducted an audit of Kingston’s ability to be a host city for a US clients’ expansion into Canada. Our client was willing to create their first Canadian presence in Kingston because we suggested that it might be a good idea. Unfortunately we ran into a significant hurdle which made the entry to Kingston a non-starter, there was no where to put their servers. This isn’t a system that can be hosted in the ‘cloud’, the servers have to be located near the system users to ensure the best performance. Any of the clients we deal with normally reside within secure and reliable data centres with multiple power and internet sources. These are the kind of clients who enable you to chat with your family, text your friends, stream videos and hang out on social media. We did find a few places that are good enough for small business needs, they were just not good enough to attract larger service providers who are used to operating in bigger markets.
A side note: KEDCO is aware of this issue and has been doing a great job working with us to find a solution.
Despite the lack of data centre, the City of Kingston is in a very good position to make innovation more than thrive. We have a fabulous publicly owned asset, Utilities Kingston, with over 1000 kilometres of symmetrical fibre connecting the largest businesses and institutions in Kingston to the rest of the world. Geographically, we’re nicely positioned between Montreal, Ottawa, New York and Toronto, offering an ideal backup location for any technology businesses operating in those cities. And, we have an incredible amount of technological brain power between our three post secondary institutions and our military community.
So what’s missing? Why hasn’t Kingston already become a thriving technology hub? In my opinion, it’s because we haven’t declared ourselves open to the possibility. Since 2005, the City of Barrie has benefited from almost half a billion dollars of data centre investments because the City of Barrie waved the possibility flag. With the surge in cloud computing and the resistance to hold customer data in unknown countries, there is more of that kind of money pouring into the Canadian economy. The City of Kingston is well positioned to take a big chunk of that business, we just have to declare we want it.
Of course, just declaring our desire and having a cute city slogan won’t be enough, we have to show technology investors that we’re serious. On every municipal candidate’s election platform, I hope to see the following promises:
- Continued expansion of Utilities Kingston’s fibre network. Target areas of Kingston which are lacking in high speed connectivity from other providers and ensure our business parks have the best connectivity possible. This is important, mediocre connectivity is not acceptable.
- Adjust KEDCO’s mandate to include attracting data centre builders.
- Add an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) to Utilities Kingston’s fibre network. In simple terms, an IXP keeps local traffic local, and it provides a way to get your online content to you faster, with peering relationships. Right now if someone at Hotel Dieu accessed information on a Queen’s server, their route to the server might go through Toronto or the US, seems silly. In 2012, the .ca registration authority, CIRA, authored a white paper identifying Kingston as an ideal IXP location. Since Utilities Kingston already has the largest internet users as customers, the cheapest and most efficient way to launch an IXP in Kingston would be to add a couple of pieces of equipment to Utilities Kingston’s network. The cost would be significantly less than the cost of one OMB appeal. In fact, there may be some corporate partnership opportunities which could reduce the tax payer costs to zero.
- Create a fibre link to New York State on our end of Lake Ontario. Right now, our traffic to the US goes through Toronto. If we can create this US link, Kingston will have a faster internet path to New York City than Toronto, in the technology world, speed is king. With our advantageous geographical location between major Canadian cities, we’ll become the preferred location for corporate headquarters and cloud providers.
- If we can actually get innovation thriving in Kingston, we won’t need a Casino, but we will need a bigger airport.
Submitted to Kingstonist’s Community Soapbox by Crystal Wilson.