‘Level playing field’ for rural internet access

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An Alberta Government initiative promises to make high speed Internet a reality for thousands of rural Albertans.

Premier Alison Redford made the announcement on Thursday, January 17 during a webcast press conference in Hinton, announcing that the government will be partnering with Xplornet Communications to offer rural, remote and First Nations residents new options to access the Internet.

Premier Redford said that the initiative “gives us the opportunity to ensure that families across this province will have access to high speed Internet.”

The announcement is phase two of the Final Mile Rural Connectivity Initiative, a program launched by the Provincial Government last year to fill Internet service gaps in rural and remote areas.

“We all know that the Internet is essential,” said Manmeet Singh Bhullar, Minister for Service Alberta. “It’s a powerful tool that contributes to the vitality of our communities and families.”

The government program goes toward waiving the standard $150 installation charge.

The distance that many rural Albertans live from towns has made access high speed Internet access impossible. Internet service through the program is provided via satellite, which does not rely on a customer’a proximity to a telephone central office or cable television head-end to ensure service. Customers will be able to access Internet at speeds of five megabits per second, which is roughly 125 times faster than conventional dial-up.

“The use of satellite technology will provide rural Albertans the same economic advantages as many of their urban counterparts,” said Bob Barss, president of the Association of Municipal Districts and Counties. “We encourage Service Alberta to continue work on this important broadband issue and look forward to high-speed Internet being accessible to all Albertans.”

The cost of the initiative will be $900,000 over five years.

The biggest advantage, according to Bhullar, is giving rural Albertans the same opportunities as those who live in larger cities.

“It doesn’t matter if you live next door to the dealer or 55 kilometres away,” Bhullar said. “This initiative creates a level playing field.”

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