Public hearing heard concerns over private industry being undercut

Written by ECA Review

The County of Paintearth held a public hearing on May 16 to discuss the Rural Connect Ltd. project, aimed at tackling rural and regional communities’ persistent broadband infrastructure challenges.

The project would allow people to have stronger and high-speed internet access and enable more people to access the internet.

Ed Griffiths with VitalNet registered to speak before the council to address his concerns over the project. Although some of his concerns may have seemed to be against the project, Griffiths told the council he meant to “speak to it.”

“Six years ago we started our own internet service due to frustrations with our partnership with Xplornet,” Griffiths said. “They seemed more interested in numbers, didn’t care whether the customers stuck around or not, didn’t really care what they were providing, tended to offer early incentive discounts and then jack the prices the longer you’re a customer. I still don’t see that being any different.”

The Paintearth county Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michael Simpson helped explain what Griffiths was speaking about. The companies that Griffiths was speaking about built towers, and when they left, they stopped building on them, meaning that in terms of capacity, the existing towers may not be able to support increased network traffic.

“That is often because they do not provide a rate of return that is comparable to heavier, more dense markets, and so they focus their investment dollars out there,” Simpson said.

According to Griffiths, the previous companies that said they would deliver these kinds of internet speeds were unable to and focused more on the numbers than customer satisfaction.

He explained that he had seen the technology that could deliver the high-speed internet that people want; however, it would cost him approximately $10 million, which he doesn’t have, unlike some larger companies.

“We’ve worked hard over the last six years to deliver what I think is the best service available in the county,” Griffiths said.

While Griffiths explained that he doesn’t feel he should have exclusive access to the network, he is concerned he could be undercut and driven out of the market after six years.

Simpson also explained the structure of the Rural Connect Ltd. project, stating that the municipality would become a shareholder in the corporation, receiving Class A and Class B shares. The board of directors responsible for governing the project would be determined based on the value of shares held by each municipality, subject to change over time.

The public hearing allowed members of the public to voice their concerns and opinions regarding the Rural Connect Ltd. project.

Aerial wildlife surveys by helicopter
A helicopter will be flying at the approximate height of 100 metres to conduct aerial wildlife surveys which started during the week of May 14 in the counties of Stettler, Lacombe and Red Deer. The pre-construction survey work will continue for the next few months.

AltaLink will utilize a helicopter to conduct aerial wildlife surveys within 1,000 metres of the approved transmission line route, focusing on flying over treed habitats. The surveys are part of the pre-construction work that AltaLink is conducting for their Central East Transfer-Out Transmission Project (CETO) to gather information about raptor and colonial nesting birds in the area to reduce potential impacts during construction.

AltaLink is mindful of minimizing disruption to residences, area users, livestock and wildlife.

Construction for stage one is not expected to start until 2024.

In Stage 1 of AltaLink’s Central East Transfer-Out Transmission Project, a new double circuit 240 kilovolt (kV) transmission line will be built. The new equipment will be installed at the Gaetz Substation east of the City of Red Deer and an ATCO Electric transmission line southeast of Alix’s village.

In Stage 1, only one of the two circuits will be energized, while Stage 2 will involve energizing the second circuit.

Since January 2019, AltaLink has engaged in consultation with stakeholders. The feedback received has been highly beneficial for the project planning.

Grain rescue training
Paintearth council decided they would give the Coronation Fire and Rescue $2,500 to go towards the training session and lunch during the regular council meeting on May 16.

The training would be one full day in Coronation and they would be trained by a Master Trainer from the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.

Although the training would take place in Coronation the training would accommodate 25 people from various fire departments from around the area.

While the council was unsure about how often there would be a rescue that needed grain rescue education, they decided that the education would not hurt. The council decided that by covering the cost of the training session they are providing the basic building blocks for their education.

Jessica Campbell
ECA Review

About the author

ECA Review

Our newspaper is only as good as its contributors and we thank each one who submits stories, photos and opinions. If you have a news item, photos or opinion to share please submit it to office@ECAreview.com.