The Government of Alberta is putting in a jumpstart of $150M to increase rural and remote communities’ connection to broadband internet.
In the announcement made July 22 at the University of Alberta Augustana Campus in Camrose, the funding will be used to begin construction on broadband expansion projects as soon as possible with details on the hows will be announced in the coming weeks.
The total cost of expanding rural broadband internet to underserved areas of the province is estimated at $1 billion and Alberta’s government is working with the federal government and the private sector to share the cost.
In an exclusive interview with Associate Rural Economic Development Minister and Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner, he felt the east central region will most definitely be on the list of places to be invested in.
“There definitely will be. There are three principles to be followed by the Minister as they are looking where to go first. And that will be maximizing private investment, the number of households and small businesses that can be reached and the third piece will be that there is some ensuring regional fairness and equity to make sure that every corner of the province sees some benefit and improvement.
“I’m very excited because in this new role of rural economic development it’s hard to touch all of rural in such an impactful way that this will and can.
“It affects everything from health to education, of course businesses and post-COVID we are seeing all of these little houses get snapped up in all of these villages and the first question they ask is ‘How’s the internet? Can I run my business from there?’. I think it will be very meaningful and positive.”
Slow and/or spotty internet connection was of massive concern brought forward from educators, parents and students amongst rural areas during the pandemic.
“A lot of the schools themselves have pretty decent internet with most having fibre internet but one thing we noticed during the pandemic was when schools were forced to go online – the families, we heard from non-stop. It didn’t have the capacity. That’s the one thing we have noticed in the east country is that they already did a lot of distance learning so it should just make it easier for families in rural communities to keep their kids in the rural schools.”
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).
Approximately 201,000 Alberta households – the equivalent of 12 per cent of the population – do not have access to target speeds set by the CRTC.