Put Telecom to work for Toronto: experts and CUPE

TORONTO, ONTARIO - The City of Toronto and Toronto Hydro Corporation should keep Toronto Hydro Telecom as a publicly owned asset and put it work for the city and its residents, according to three expert reports commissioned by CUPE Local One.

"Three reports, prepared independently, all arrive at similar conclusions from distinct points of view," said Pauline Niles, president of Local One, which represents 27 unionized employees who work for Telecom as well as 1,250 employees of Toronto Hydro. "We all agree - the City should put Telecom to work as an internal telecommunications service for the City and its agencies, boards and commissions in order to save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

"As well, Telecom has a role to play in supporting other public policy objectives such as emergency preparedness, mitigating the "digital divide" that arises as a result of the growing social and economic gap in Toronto's population and improving public safety."

Like most of the community, CUPE Local One was taken by surprise when Toronto Hydro Corporation announced last January that it was considering the sale of Telecom, Nile said. In a presentation to the Hydro board of directors, the union asked for public consultations to allow Toronto residents to have their say about the potential loss of a valuable piece of modern infrastructure.

While waiting for a response from Hydro, CUPE Local One commissioned opinions from three different sets of experts about the potential for Toronto Hydro Telecom:

• The SeaBoard Group, a leading Canadian technology research and strategy consulting company;

• Professor Robert Hebdon, McGill Desautels Faculty of Management, an expert in municipal restructuring;

• Professor Andrew Clement and Amelia Bryne Potter, University of Toronto, Faculty of Information Studies, Community Wireless Infrastructure Research Project.

"We are recommending that the City of Toronto and Toronto Hydro keep Telecom to benefit the city and its residents and also continue Telecom's current functions as a commercial enterprise, which generates revenue," Niles said. "It's a win-win solution that will keep Toronto at the forefront of a new kind of infrastructure.

"The alternative, selling Telecom, is a one-shot deal that will provide some immediate cash for the City," she said. "But the return will be only a portion of its value, once the brokers and banks take their share, and a sale can never be undone. Once this public asset is gone, it's gone forever."

CUPE Local One has provided Mayor David Miller with a copy of the report and has been meeting with city councillors who sit on the Toronto Hydro Corporation board, Niles said.


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