Projects will be announced in 2022, but due to global supply chain issues and the industry’s ability to support projects, communities may not go online until 2023 or 2024.
Rural municipalities say they are pleased with the announcement of federal funds dedicated to improving Internet access in communities across the province.
Internet Connectivity in Rural Alberta has received $ 300 million in federal and provincial funding to improve broadband access.
On Thursday, the federal government announced it would match Alberta’s previous pledge to spend $ 150 million to expand rural Internet access across the province.
Paul McLauchlin, President of Rural Alberta, said the ad is “the best Christmas present ever.”
âThe point is, this digital divideâ¦ has left some people behind. It kept people from making theirâ¦ dreams come true, âsaid McLauchlin.
âIt’s extremely exciting that this is the first stop,â said McLauchlin.
The president said the number one problem for rural municipalities is not agriculture or health care, but broadband connectivity.
Federal Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubbish was joined by Federal Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault to announce that the two governments want to connect rural, remote and Indigenous communities to quality Internet services over the next several years.
âIn this first step, we can start to make significant progress in closing the digital divide,â Glubish said.
Glubish said the projects will be announced in 2022, but due to global supply chain issues and the industry’s ability to undertake projects, communities may not be connected until 2023 or 2024.
âThe pandemic has certainly highlighted the need – accelerated the need – to get there,â Glubish said.
Currently, more than 200,000 rural and remote households in Alberta do not have access to high-speed Internet, said Boissonnault.
Some 80 percent of Indigenous communities and 67 percent of rural communities do not have access to Internet speeds set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Boissonnault said.
Governments expect the partnership to attract funds from the private sector to help expand Internet access.
âWhen our two governments partner with the private sector, we could see this investment reach over $ 400 million. This is an extremely important first step, âsaid Glubish.
Alberta provided the first $ 150 million in July 2021 in the hope that the federal government and the private sector would raise money.
About 12% of Alberta families in the province, or roughly 200,000 households, do not have the basic speeds required by the federal government for adequate Internet service, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in July.
While that 12% appears to be a small number, these homes are found in rural and indigenous communities and count as much as homes in the rest of the province, he said.
Over the summer, Glubish said it was difficult for rural communities to attract private investment, which often depends on broadband internet connections.
âLet me just say that Internet access is no longer a luxury,â Glubish said.
With better access to internet services and the growing popularity of remote working, Gubish said Service Alberta expects gross domestic product to grow between $ 500 billion and $ 1.7 billion, and the connection will help attract new businesses, create jobs and build real real estate markets in rural communities.
Glubish said that while it is important for all Albertans to have access to broadband, he wants to ensure that Indigenous communities have access to the Internet and that $ 50 million of the $ 300 million will be set aside to develop. specifically infrastructure in indigenous communities.
It is estimated that it will cost $ 1 billion to connect Albertans to targeted Internet speeds established by the federal government. Boissonnault said the $ 300 million is only the first phase of the investment.
âYou can’t build a house in a month, so it’s a down payment on a big project,â Boissonnault said.
The federal Liberal government launched a Universal Broadband Fund in 2020 as part of its commitment to connect 98% of Canadians to high-speed internet by 2026, with the rest to be completed by 2030.
The goal is to have Canadians at speeds of 50 megabytes per second for downloads and 10 megabytes per second for downloads. According to the CRTC, less than nine percent of rural Alberta communities have access to these speeds.
The federal government has set aside $ 1.75 billion for projects. Earlier this year, the federal government announced it would spend $ 5.4 million on Internet projects in rural Alberta. Telus has committed an additional $ 3.7 million to the pot, which will connect around 5,000 homes.