I despise the phrase, “game-changer”.
The words conjure, in me, images of small boys on a football pitch, bullied by larger boys stealing the ball, kicking shins, shoving urchins into the mud, scoring on empty nets and then triumphantly celebrating their victory as a well-earned win, marked fetchingly in the “if-you-can’t-stand-the-trampling-stay-out-of-our-way” category of crooked competition.
Sort of like Wall Street in 1929, 1987, 2001, 2007 and anytime soon (pick a year) coming to an RRSP near you.
But every once in a long while “game-changer” seems to be an appropriate description for small cities with big appetites and even larger ambitions to beat the bully-boys at their own game.
So, then, witness, last week’s launch of Fibre Centre in uptown Moncton (somewhere amidst the nine-foot drifts of snow and ice and Centennial Park, where the more placid of our urban ilk still appreciate a mid-morning ski outing on Nordic trails).
There, hundreds of business and political elites gathered to hear the great news: Greater Moncton carved another notch in its belt as one of North America’s most competitive cities with the first “network-neutral colocation and interconnection facility providing a three-way junction point linking submarine and terrestrial dark fiber assets in Atlantic Canada.”
And before you shrug your shoulders and mumble “uh, come again”, the new technology works this way: For the first time anywhere in the region businesses of every size, complexity and stripe – along with public and private institutions, governments and public organizations – will have seamless access to the world through unused (ie., ‘dark’) fibre-optic cables which just happen to flow through Moncton.
The secret: There’s a lot of state-of-the-art, digital pipe going begging in these parts, these days.
“Moncton now has a physical access point to the mass of fibre optic networks that pass through, but heretofore have not actually been able to directly interconnect with each other here,” said Ukrainian businessman Iouri Litvinenko, Fibre Centre’s co-founder. “Facilities such as these have proven to breed economic development globally.”
Added the firm’s other co-founder, American tech entrepreneur Hunter Newby: “Fibre Centre is a neutral meet point for networks of al kinds. We are not a carrier, or network operator, ourselves but rather (we) own the building, known as a ‘carrier hotel’, and provide the managed real estate environment, known as a ‘meet me room‘, as well as data centre space, where all networks can colocate and openly interconnect with each other.”
Four years in the making, the deal’s the official launch podium featured Ben Champoux,, CEO of Greater Moncton’s economic development organization, 3+ Corporation; James Lockyer, chair of 3+; Gaetan Thomas, CEO of NB Power; George LeBlanc, Mayor of Moncton; Newby; and, of course, Brian Gallant, premier of New Brunswick.
Said Gallant: “This is a phenomenal opportunity. . .We should all be very proud of this firm’s decision to choose Moncton. Arthur C. Clarke (the late science fiction writer) once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I can tell you that Fibre Centre has a lot of magic.”
For his part, Mayor LeBlanc noted that the news burnishes Moncton’s reputation as one of the continent’s truly smart cities. “All digital roads lead here. . .or, rather, almost all,” he quipped. We, at the city, are happy to be Fibre Centre’s first customer.”
So, then, is this a game-changer for a community that has been switching up the rules for itself ever since the railway left and the nation’s retail behemoths took a powder?
Consider that nowhere in eastern North America is there as comprehensive and technologically sophisticated hub of fibre optic cable than here.
Also consider that nowhere in eastern Canada would an announcement like this draw hundreds of people to a spare auditorium, providing no parking, in sub-zero temperatures, surrounded by mountains of frigid white.
I’d call it a game-opener.