The government has provided a timeline for when rural Albertans can expect broadband internet connectivity.
In July, the provincial government announced an investment of up to $150-million towards expanding broadband internet connections in rural and Indigenous communities in the province.
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).
The CRTC declared broadband a basic telecommunications service in 2016 and set network speeds to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads in every Canadian home and business by 2030.
In mid-December, Service Alberta minister and Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Nate Glubish announced the federal government would be matching dollar-for-dollar Alberta’s $150-million investment to provide broadband service.
In an interview with MIX 107, Glubish explained the agreement sets a framework for collaboration with the provincial and federal governments to move forward with projects under the Universal Broadband Fund, a national program that supports high-speed Internet projects in rural and remote areas across the country.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of Alberta connectivity projects that have applied for the Universal Broadband Fund already, and now the government of Alberta is going to work with the federal government to rank and prioritise those projects, and I’m looking forward to announcing the successful applicants early in the new year,” said Glubish.
He added an enormous number of broadband projects that need to be built but are not economically viable without support from various levels of government.
The total cost of expanding rural broadband internet to underserved areas of the province is estimated at $1 billion. Glubish added the province is working with the private sector in addition to the federal government to share the cost.
After the first applicants of the new program are announced, Glubish hopes to see shovels in the ground in the upcoming construction season and ideally have full connectivity by 2023-2024 although acknowledged it’s likely that it will take another couple of years due to factors including industry capacity and supply chain issues.