Special Areas to receive funding for high-speed internet

Alberta Premier Alison Redford speaks to media and local politicians in Stettler Friday, August 30 during her ‘Building Alberta’ tour.
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Alberta Premier Alison Redford was in Stettler Friday, August 30 to announce a government partnership project to install new high speed internet towers for the Special Areas.

The Premier met with media and local politicians at the Stettler Town and Country Museum as part of ‘Building Alberta’, a nation-wide initiative aimed at connecting government to parts of the province rarely visited on official business.

The Premier used the meeting to discuss the maintenance and building of generational foundations in smaller communities, technology’s role in connecting people in Alberta, and budgetary concerns.

“We passed a budget in the spring that was a tough budget,” Redford said, “It was a budget that allows us to put Alberta on a sustainable fiscal footing for the future, and we’re going to stick to that.”

Redford said that longer-term planning was important for a provincial growth outlook, and investment in infrastructure was paramount to sustained development. “As we move forward and think about access to the world and access to information, access to education and access to cultural pursuits, it’s very exciting to think that the internet is going to be an important part of that,” Redford said.

The official announcement of funding for new internet towers – known as the ‘Final Mile Initiative’ – came from Verlyn Olson, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose.

“The Special Areas are going to receive $111, 975, and this project is for the construction of new tower sites,” Olsen said.

He said that through a partnership between his department and Service Alberta, this funding would account for the construction of two new towers, an upgrade to an existing tower and the installation of broadband equipment.

“This is going to make a big difference to people,” Olson said, “whether it’s students wanting to do some research for homework, or whether somebody who has kids on the other side of the world and they want to stay in touch, or whether it’s somebody who wants to conduct business such as selling grain or checking web reports.”

Jay Slemp, Chair of the Special Areas Board, spoke about the local scope of the business partnership, which sees the towers run by Netago, a business owned by Terry Ducherer and Jim Bietelspacher, both of Hanna.

By adding new towers, Slemp said they would be able to reach people who still have no access to high-speed internet. “It allows us to reach that last mile for those people who have actually been waiting six years [for internet],” Slemp said, “[and] they don’t wait quietly, as you might know.”

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