Internet connectivity for rural Alberta has received a financial boost from the federal government.
In July, the Alberta government announced that it would pledge 150 million dollars towards expanding and improving broadband internet to rural Alberta.
On Thursday (Dec.16), it was announced that the federal government was making a similar pledge. Numerous officials from various levels of government were in attendance for the announcement. Minister of Service Alberta, Nate Glubish, said, "We are very pleased that the federal government has matched Alberta's broadband contribution dollar for dollar bringing the total committed public funds to 300 million dollars."
Glubish stated that with the collaboration of the governments and the private sector, the province could see the investment grow. "When our two governments partner with the private sector, we could see this investment grow to north of 400 hundred million dollars."
One of those members of the private sector, Telus, released this statement. "Today's partnership announcement by the Governments of Canada and Alberta will ensure that Albertans living in rural and remote Indigenous communities across the province have the technology they need to fully participate in today's digital world," said Shazia Zeb Sobani, Vice President of Customer Network Implementation at TELUS.
"TELUS is investing $14.5 billion across the province in new network infrastructure, operations, and spectrum now through 2024, creating 8,000 job opportunities and connecting more Albertans to our world-leading wireless and wireline networks. This includes connecting 500,000 more Albertan households and businesses to the TELUS PureFibre network, including across rural communities.
TELUS PureFibre supported more than two million Albertans as they adapted to new ways of living throughout the pandemic, enabling people to work with large files at home while other family members simultaneously use the internet for school, virtually connecting with healthcare practitioners, or staying socially connected."
It is the first step and there is a way to go, but at least it is a step in the right direction for the over 200,000 residents who do not have access to high-speed internet in the province.
All levels of government and private stakeholders agree that high-speed internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. The residents in rural, remote, and indigenous communities are well aware of the "digital divide" and for them, the access cannot come fast enough.
Glubish says, "Alberta's government is committed to eliminating the digital divide. Solving the broadband problem requires all levels of government and the private sector to come together. Albertans living outside major urban centres have been at a digital disadvantage because of unreliable broadband, but we are building partnerships to end that and, today, we're so much closer to a solution. Connectivity is on the horizon."
Glubish shared a timeline for 2022 saying, "We expect to make out first project announcement early in 2022 and our goal is to make sure that shovels in the ground in this upcoming 2022 construction season." He added that the ideal would be to achieve universal connectivity by 2023/2024, but does admit that it may take a couple of years longer particularly due to the availability of materials.
Again, due to the pandemic, supply chains for such things a fiber optics could be a factor in the expediency of construction.