“Albertans living outside major urban centers have been digitally disadvantaged due to unreliable broadband. “
LAKE – Addressing “digital disadvantages” in rural Alberta communities – including the Lakeland region – where reliable broadband service is a concern, is at the center of a new $ 300 million project.
The plan will combine a contribution of $ 150 million from the federal government with matching funds from the provincial government, with further investments expected to follow.
The initial $ 300 million partnership was announced earlier in December by Alberta Services Minister Nate Glubish and Federal Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault. The partnership is designed to provide the nearly 200,000 Alberta residents across the province who do not have adequate high-speed Internet access with enhanced broadband access. Services are expected to begin as early as 2023, pending approved deals with potential service providers and community partners, including Indigenous leaders.
“Albertans living outside major urban centers have been digitally disadvantaged by unreliable broadband, but we are partnering to end it, and today we are much closer to ‘a solution. Connectivity is on the horizon, ”Glubis told representatives of the rural media.
Deploying broadband is an investment in the future of vibrant communities across the province, said Paul McLauchlin, President of Rural Municipalities of Alberta.
“This is a promising investment. Partnership is the keyword, ”said McLauchlin.
Currently, 80 percent of Alberta’s Indigenous communities and 67 percent of rural households do not have adequate access to target Internet speeds, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
Although the project is very important, its execution will still take some time, said Glubish, who expects an additional $ 100 million to be provided by the private sector, as more information regarding the phases will be rolled out to the during the new year.
“The private sector is expected to participate in these projects – with the skin in the game as well. I am confident that approximately $ 400 million will be invested in connectivity projects in Alberta, through this partnership between Canada and Alberta Broadband, ”said Glubish.
When the project hits its target, the total investment could reach $ 1 billion, Glubish said, however, infrastructure costs, negotiations with the private sector and responsible planning will take time. More importantly, he said, the initial funding is a step in the right direction and the current relationship between the federal government and the provincial government allows more partnerships to flourish.
“That $ 400 million plus isn’t $ 1 billion, but it’s an important first step… we know there isn’t enough capacity to go out and spend a billion dollars in one or two years to solve these problems because there are limits in terms of supply chains, limits in terms of engineering expertise… the good news is that the agreement we signed leaves room for this future collaboration.
The Federal Minister of Tourism recognizes the increasing plans to contribute to the creation of broadband services and the positive effects this will have on the tourism sector as a whole.
“We all know that access to high-quality, high-speed internet is essential. Connectivity has an impact on all sectors of the economy, including – I would like to emphasize – our tourism sector, ”said Boissonnault, adding that the federal government’s commitment is at the national level, as part of the the $ 2.75 billion Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) developed in 2020.
While much of the service delivery will be related to the increase in fiber optic lines, it is also planned to use satellite services to reach remote areas. A future investment of $ 600 million in satellite services is underway with the Canadian company Telesat, which intends to cover all regions in the future through the federally funded program.
“We authorized $ 600 million to be able to secure part of Telesat’s satellite network that orbits the globe to ensure that communities that cannot be connected by fiber optic can be connected via the Internet by satellite.”
Going forward, more information regarding broadband phases and developments, including target areas, will be provided early next year.