Province invests $150M to improve rural broadband internet service

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Municipal governments in the Smoky River and South Peace regions are trying to find a way to bring cost-effective broadband internet to their regions.

A recent announcement by the Government of Alberta just may make that a possibility.

As part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, the government announced July 22 it will invest up to $150 million to expand and improve broadband internet in rural, remote and Indigenous commu- nities.

The bad news is, no one knows how the dough will be distributed. The government says the $150 million will be used to begin construction on broadband expansion projects as soon as possible but adds details on the spending will be announced later.

Currently, about 80 per cent of Indigenous communities and 67 per cent of rural communities do not have access to the high-speed internet targets set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission [CRTC].

“Our economic recovery needs to include Alberta’s rural, remote and Indigenous communities,” says Premier Jason Kenney.

“This investment ensures individuals, families and businesses in these parts of the province will not be left behind. It is Alberta’s way of saying that we’re ready to invest in this important technology and we’re looking forward to working with our partners to make it a reality for those in Alberta who need it.”

Minister of Service Alberta Nate Glubish adds rural communities have struggled to grow and compete in a modern economy without access to reliable, high-speed internet.

“This investment will create jobs, improve access to health care and education resources, and diversify the economy in rural Alberta,” he adds.

Rural Municipalities of Alberta president Paul McLauchlin says the investment is needed.

“Every dollar contributed to specifically addressing rural broadband addresses the significant digital poverty that rural Albertans experience,” he says.

“RMA feels this is one of the most effective investments to growing communities, supporting business and for supporting the future of modern agriculture and resource development. Rural Albertans will be pleased that they have been heard.”

About 201,000 Alberta households – the equivalent of 12 per cent of the population – do not have access to target speeds set by the CRTC.

About 80 per cent of Alberta’s Indigenous households and 67 per cent of rural households do not have access to CRTC target speeds for internet, which lags behind Canada-wide rates of 54.4 per cent and 65.2 per cent, respectively.

The total cost of expanding rural broadband internet to underserved areas of Alberta is estimated at $1 billion. The Alberta government is working with the federal government and the private sector to share the cost.

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