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Whooshnet challenges Yodel

Whistler Cable discouraged by partnership between RMOW and V-Link

One way or another, wireless Internet access is coming to Whistler, and Whistler Cable Television Ltd. (WCTL) is determined to be part of this technological revolution.

In response to the municipality’s decision to form a public-private partnership with V-Link to build a wireless network for laptops and personal data assistants in Whistler Village, called Yodel, Whistler Cable has put its own wireless proposal on the table.

Although they were disappointed that they weren’t approached by the municipality earlier in the process, WCTL says it is stilling willing to form a partnership with the RMOW.

The WCTL feels its proposal offers a greater benefit to the community and local businesses than the current partnership with V-Link in terms of cost and profitability, as well as a faster level of service through Whooshnet, their cable internet network.

If the municipality doesn’t reconsider their current arrangement with V-Link by July 15, Whistler Cable has announced that they will launch a competing wireless service for Whistler Village called Whooshnet Wireless.

In doing so Whistler Cable recognizes that “two competing offerings…will significantly impede the success of both offerings and calls into question the long-term sustainability of multiple, parallel Internet networks in this relatively small community,” according to a letter sent to the RMOW.

In the letter to John Rae, the manager of strategic alliances for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Whistler Cable expressed disappointment that the municipality had not approach Whistler Cable in the early stages of the project.

They pointed to the company’s 23-year track record in the community, and the investments they have already made in cable and wireless Internet – $100,000 in wireless networking equipment and software and $560,000 in hotel Internet service infrastructure. They expect to invest another $250,000 into these services in the near future.

According to Ian Bell, the consulting program manager for Whistler Cable, Whooshnet Wireless has been in development for over a year.

“What Whooshnet Wireless is presenting to the community represents a great overall deal for citizens, property owners, hotel operators and retailers,” said Bell.

“We are also bootstrapping the deployment costs from within the envelope of Whistler Cable Television’s business, and not from public funds. We’re also retaining the profits from the service within the Whistler community, and distributing a far greater percentage of overall revenue to Whistler businesses and citizens.”

Whistler Cable views Yodel as a direct threat to its own in-room Internet services.

According to Whistler Cable their in-room service was growing until Yodel, represented by the municipality, began making proposals to Whistler property managers.

Yodel also impacts on the cable company’s ability to offer services like Video-On-Demand in hotel rooms, because its VOD services are offered through Whooshnet.

While V-Link is covering the capital costs of building the Yodel infrastructure, WCTL questions the municipality’s decision to use public money to help promote, sell and administer a service that will ultimately compete with, and potentially damage, the interests of WCTL, a privately held company.

“What we never, in the history of our company, anticipated was a competitive threat initiated and supported by the very municipal office of the community that we have made this quarter-century commitment to,” stated Whistler Cable in its letter to the RMOW.

In its proposal to the municipality WCTL would lease access to its network to Yodel for a return of 30 per cent in addition to the RMOW’s assistance securing access for Whooshnet Wireless equipment.

By way of comparison, the current deal with V-Link would have given the municipality 10 per cent of the revenue until the infrastructure was paid for, after which time V-Link and the RMOW would split revenues 50-50.

WCTL also pledged the following: Ten to 15 per cent of gross service revenue would be returned to property owners in exchange for access to antennae; Revenues from roof access fees would be divided equally between WCTL and the RMOW; WCTL would provide the network, infrastructure and wireless facilities, the subscriber management system, all billing and reporting systems, maintenance, and operational and customer support; WCTL would supply all prepaid calling cards and WhooshNetConnect devices to retailers, cafes, and hotels with a share of profits going towards those retailers; WCTL would agree to market its services under the Yodel brand name.

Yodel also agreed to assume all infrastructure costs, as well as to share revenues with retailers.

According to Bill Barratt, the general manager of community services for the RMOW, they are considering the letter, but will continue to move forward with Yodel.

Yodel is having its soft launch on July 9, and expects to have its service up and running with up to 50 per cent coverage in the village.

The official launch will take place this fall with greater than 90 per cent of the infrastructure in place.

Afterwards, the RMOW and V-Link hope to use Yodel as a model than can be exported to other towns. “Our model is to move it out of Whistler, not just here,” explained Barratt.

While he understands why Whistler Cable has an issue with the project, Barratt said that it wasn’t a case of Whistler making a proposal and choosing one company to partner with over another, but an opportunity that came along.

“It was just something that came to us (from V-Link), we weren’t even really aware of the technology at the time,” he said.

If the WTCL and RMOW can’t come to any kind of agreement, and the RMOW is already contractually partnered with V-Link, Barratt accepts that they may have to live with the wireless competition.

“We’re still pretty excited about the whole thing, especially after the

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